Tourism season months away, ministers mull best way to open Goa up to tourists
While Goa’s tourism season in October is still months away, discussions have already begun as to when the state should open for tourists.
Within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ministers are now vowing to be more cautious than the first time round when Goa made entry free to the state.
“Tourism industry should not open up till Covid-19 cases are in control all over India; When it opens, it should be in a phased manner,” Michael Lobo a minister in the Goa government who represents the Calangute constituency, arguably the epicentre of tourism in the state, said.
On May 31, Lobo had argued that any kind of restrictions on the movement of people into the state would sound the death knell of the industry. “If you make SOPs stricter and you harass tourists, which tourist will come to Goa? We have to take precautionary measures, but at the same time you cannot stop business because Covid-19 cases are increasing,” he had said.
However, as the situation worsened, he was among the first to change his stance and ask the villages falling under his constituency to “lock down”.
For his part, tourism minister Manohar Ajgaonkar has suggested that only completely vaccinated should be allowed in the state once it is unlocked.
However, the Opposition has questioned the need to reopen and suggested that tourists shouldn’t be welcome until all the residents of the state are vaccinated.
“Opening tourism is not based on allowing fully vaccinated tourists. It should be thought about once all Goans are fully vaccinated -- so that Goa becomes a safe tourism destination. This is the global practice. Before opening tourism, the government of Goa must ensure that all Goan-owned businesses and workers receive all the support and incentives they can to recover. We must protect Goan livelihoods first, if we truly want to recover Goa’s tourism industry,” Goa Forward Party president Vijai Sardesai said.
Till date, Goa has vaccinated nearly 400,000 persons with at least one dose -- around 25% of its population -- while around 100,000 people have received both the doses. This way, it will take at least another six months before much of the state is fully vaccinated with both the doses.
The state’s Covid tally stands at 161,000 and nearly 3,000 people have died.
After the initial lockdown last year, Goa’s tourism sector witnessed a revival of sorts across the months of November to January with flight arrivals and tourist footfall on the main beaches nearly matching those of previous seasons.
According to state government figures, around 2.5 million tourists visited Goa till December last year, which is a little over a quarter of normal arrivals. Prior to the pandemic, the state witnessed close to 9 million tourists, including around 900,000 foreigners.
As per a survey by Goa Tourism Development Corporation on the impact of the pandemic on the state’s tourism Industry, the overall loss of earnings during lockdown has been estimated at Rs2,062 crore. Potential loss of earning for the 2020-21 season has been pegged at ₹7,239 crore and the potential job cuts were to the tune of 122,000 (58%).
Goa’s tourism sector directly contributes 16.43% towards the state Gross Domestic Product and also provides employment to nearly 35% of the state’s population, according to official estimates.