Goa tourism activities must resume after full vaccination: Minister

Goa Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar said on Tuesday that tourism activities are only expected to resume once the entire population of the coastal state is fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

While the Goa government has allowed hotels to operate, restaurants and other tourism-related activities have been closed due to the curfew, which has been in place in the state since May 9, when cases of Covid- 19 began to peak.

Speaking to the PTI, the minister said only “fully vaccinated” tourists should be allowed to enter the state.

“We cannot keep Goa’s tourism industry closed forever, as it is an important backbone of our state’s economy,” Ajgaonkar said.

Read | Goa extends Covid-19 curfew until June 14 with relaxations

The tourism industry will be able to resume all activities once the entire population of the state is “fully vaccinated” with the two doses of the vaccine, he said.

The state should also open up to tourists with caution, allowing entry only to visitors who have taken the two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, the minister said.

“Once tourism fully resumes in Goa, the state will launch an intensive media campaign, inviting domestic tourists here,” he said, adding that the industry will have to regain its past glory as it suffered losses due to the pandemic.

In the case of international travelers, Ajgaonkar said the state will have to depend on the Centre’s decision to resume charter flights.

Meanwhile, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) is basing its hopes on a rapid resumption of tourism activities to minimize its losses.

The state-run special-purpose vehicle operates 13 hotel properties, mostly in the coastal belt, to meet the needs of tourists.

The company has suffered “historic losses” for two years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, GTDC chief executive Nikhil Desai said.

“We place our hopes in a rapid recovery of the tourism industry, because the last two years have been a failure for us,” he said.

Few of the company-run residences (hotels) have been closed amid the pandemic, while staff have been redeployed to other missions, the official said.

“At least during the last lockdown, the state government had taken over some of our residences to set up quarantine centers. But this time there was no occupation,” Desai said.

The company has suffered financial losses as it has to pay the salaries of around 400 employees, in addition to obligations such as pensions for former employees, he said.

The exact amount of losses suffered in the past fiscal year will be quantified in the coming months, but the losses are certainly huge, the official added.

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