Tourism industry hopes for turnaround after Goa opens borders, bars under Unlock 4
The Goa government’s decision to lift all restrictions on the movement of people across the state borders under Unlock 4 has offered hope to the state’s tourism industry that it will encourage people to consider vacationing later this year.
But the decision also drew flak from locals who said that it was too soon to life restrictions that were put in place to fight the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that there would be no restrictions on the movement of people in and out of the state, which he said was in tune with the central government’s directives.
In response, the Goa Airport too announced that screening and the testing were being lifted.
“As per the announcements by the Govt of Goa restrictions on interstate travel have been removed in line with guidelines of Govt of India. No more requirements of Covid19 -ve report and no more test requirements for domestic travellers,” the Airports Authority of India, which runs the civilian terminal at the Goa airport, said.
The airport handled 34,700 passengers in August, the highest since April and significantly higher than the around 20,000 passengers the airport handled in the months of June and July.
The state’s tourism department had said that the need for quarantine upon arrival as well as quarantine upon return to their respective states was an additional deterrent to tourists as well as to business travellers many of whom arrive only for a short stay.
The tourism stakeholders hope that with the travel guidelines now clearer, it will help people plan their holidays if not now, then for later this year.
An added filip was the reopening of bars, which the industry says will also give the restaurant industry a boost.
According to an per an order issued by the Excise Department on Monday all “valid licence holders whose licences are not otherwise suspended and are already renewed for this financial year are permitted to commence the sale of liquor for consumption on premises except in containment zones… provided that they make mandatory arrangements for social distancing distancing between workers, adequate gaps between shifts, staggering lunch breaks of staff, etc.”
The government has also mandated that “no liquor be sold without a mask or face cover... and that customers maintain six feet distance from each other” among other conditions.
“We are also worried about the virus, because we do not know how fast it is spreading. We have to inspire confidence in people if they are to come back. It will take some time,” Michael Carrasco, the president of the All Goa Bar and Restaurant Association, said.
Goa’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism and while the return of the tourists is still some months away, stakeholders are hopeful that with the path now clearer things will turn a corner by November-December.
However, many have cautioned that the decision is premature. The Goa unit of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said the chief minister seems to have given up all efforts to control the spread of Covdi-19.
“The breakneck speed at which the BJP government has opened up the state, shows that CM Pramod Sawant, having given up all efforts to either control the spread or ensure treatment of the infected, is only waiting for herd immunity to develop in Goa. The CM has thrown open the borders to everyone, with no testing required. He says this is as per MHA guidelines. But MHA guidelines have only removed the requirement of an e-pass and the guidelines dated 29/08/20 expressly state that movement of people is still to be regulated as per SOPs in place,” the AAP said.