August 17, 2021 10:38:09 pm
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said on Tuesday that the state government will write to the Centre to take steps to revive tourism. Sawant’s statement came after a meeting with members of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) and the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) that made a joint representation to the Chief Minister to allow charter flights to Goa from countries like Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhsthan by October.
Sawant said, “It (allowing charter flights) is in the purview of Government of India (GoI) and until the GoI does not give the permission, we cannot start. Even earlier this request had been conveyed to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Minstry of Tourism. This time also we will be writing for them (TTAG). Until now we have not taken any decision but there is willingness now and there is no harm in thinking positively about this. They (TTAG) wants it to be started by October that is still two months away. They wanted time to prepare for this and in case the number of Covid-19 cases increases, we can cancel it (permission for charter flights),” said Sawant.
He said that the TTAG and GCCI had also said that charter flight operations should start following all the safety norms to prevent the spread of Covid 19. In its representation to the chief minister, the TTAG and GCCI stated that entry should be allowed only to those tourist who have a negative RT-PCR report or are fully vaccinated.
“As tourists arriving in Goa don’t travel to any other state and majority of them spend time at their respective hotels,” the TTAG said in a statement issued Tuesday.
The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) had last month also written to the union minister of state for tourism Shripad Naik urging him to impress upon the central government that it needs to immediately take a decision to allow chartered flights coming into Goa so that the operations can resume by November, busy tourist season in Goa.
The TTAG had called it a “Goa-specific problem” but stated that India’s smallest state accounts for 92 percent of the charter flights coming into the country.
“It is extremely disappointing to note that there are no facilities for foreign tourists arriving into Goa directly from destinations which are willing to travel to Goa, say for example from Russia, UK, Poland etc….In these Covid 19 pandemic times we are facing great difficulties which need to be restored by taking necessary steps in the matter to restore travel directly into Goa under the Bubble Travel Policy for tourism,” TTAG president Nilesh Shah had written in his letter to the Naik on July 15.
While chartered flight operations for foreign tourists came to a halt after the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020, data from the Goa tourism department show that over 2 lakh tourists had arrived in Goa on chartered flights in the previous year 2018-19 in the tourist season from October to April.
According to the TTAG, the apex body in Goa that has hotels, tour operators, airlines, travel agents and other allied bodies as its members, charter flights in the past operated approximately 36 flights a week with approximately 220 passengers per flight and approximately 800 passengers a week into Goa.
According to the latest data available with the Goa tourism department, in 2018-19, 2,18,776 tourists arrived in Goa on 813 flights.
Ernest Dias, tour operator for Sita-TCI, who has been catering to foreign tourists arriving on charter flights to Goa since 1993, said that in the 2019-2020 charter season (October to April), about 600 charter flights may have arrived in Goa before the country-wide lockdown was announced in March, 2020.
Most of the tourists arriving on charter flights, Dias said, are from Russia. “We have charter flights to Goa operating not only from Moscow but from 14 different regions of Russia,” he said. Of the 813 charter flights that arrived in Goa in 2018-19, 224 arrived from the UK and 292 arrived from Russia. Other countries from where tourists arrived in Goa on charter flights included Finland, Iran, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
“Taxi-drivers, beach shacks, tour guides, water-sports operators, shops and even pharmacies have suffered since the charter flight operations were hit. Everyone incurred huge losses,” said Dias.
Charter flight operations to Goa started in 1985-86 with 24 flights bringing in 3,568 tourists, Goa tourism department data show. In 2016-17 Goa had the highest number of charter flight arrivals with 988 flights carrying 2,32,679 tourists into the coastal state.
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