-CB Edit Desk
Tourism activities will not be reopened in Goa until everybody in the state gets at least one dose of the vaccine, state Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Thursday, as reported by The Mint. The CM added that the administration is aiming to achieve this goal by 31 July.
“Until we administer the first dose of vaccine (across the state), tourism will not be reopened here. Our target is to accomplish this goal by 31 July. We will consider reopening only after achieving that goal,” said Sawant.
The state’s coronavirus caseload went up by 310 and rose to 1,63,358 on Wednesday, while 428 more patients recovered from the infection, a health department official said. The death toll increased to 2,960 after 13 patients succumbed to the infection in the last 24 hours, he said.
Prior to this, state tourism minister Manohar Ajgaonkar had also said tourism should restart only after the entire population of the coastal state is completely vaccinated against Covid-19. “We can’t keep Goa’s tourism industry shut forever, as it is an important backbone of our state’s economy,” Ajgaonkar said.
The statement comes a day after the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa was informed by the government that the state’s hospitality sector would open fully only after the positivity rate drops below 5%. The TTAG, however, has insisted that tourism should be restarted at the earliest but with all safety protocols in place.
The association’s chairman Nilesh Shah suggested that only people who are fully vaccinated should be allowed to enter the state with a Covid-19 negative certificate or vaccination certificate. He had also suggested the government to set up testing facilties at the border, railway stations , bus terminals and airports.
Former TTAG chairman and president-elect of Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industries (GCCI), Ralph De Souza, said that the tourism industry can start on a cautious note from November onwards. He said that the tourism industry was paralysed after the first wave, but it opened up for a few months when domestic tourists started coming in before it was again hit by the second wave.
Meanwhile, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) is hoping for an early resumption of tourism activities to minimise its losses. The state-run special purpose vehicle has been operating 13 hotel properties, mostly in the coastal belt, to cater to tourists. According to GTDC managing director Nikhil Desai, the corporation has been running into “historic losses” for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are pinning our hopes on early resumption of the tourism industry, as the last two years have been a washout for us,” he said.
Few residencies (hotels) run by the corporation have been shut amid the pandemic, while the staff has been redeployed to other assignments, the official said. The corporation has been burdened with financial losses, as it has to pay salaries of 400-odd staff, apart from liabilities such as pensions for former employees, he said. The exact quantum of losses incurred in the last fiscal will be quantified in the next couple of months, but the losses are certainly huge, the official added.