Cancellations of all foreign visas by the Indian government, to protect the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), has rattled the tourism industry. The ban comes at a time when the inbound (international) tourist season for Maharashtra has entered its last phase.
In view of the spread of Covid-19, India on Wednesday decided to stop the entry of foreign nationals. The decision was taken in view of the spread of the virus across the globe, with the World Health Organization (WHO) also declaring it a global pandemic.
Maharashtra is among the top 10 destinations for international tourists visiting the country. The World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora in Aurangabad, Nashik, Mumbai and Pune are frequented by tourists. The Economic Survey of Maharashtra stated that about 0.51 crore international tourists had visited the state in 2018, while 11.91 crore domestic tourists had visited to the state. Other than the heritage sites, international cruises also dock at the Mumbai port.
NS Rathor, chairman of the Western Region of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), said the visa withdrawal comes at the end of the international tourist season, which was due to end in the middle of April. “We support the government’s decision but this will entail losses for the industry” he said. About 65 international cruises to Mumbai have been cancelled. “The loss would be to the operators, resort owners and other stakeholders…” he said.
Similarly, the outbound tourism sector — Indians travelling to foreign locations — have also been hit by the spread of Covid-19. Prabhulal Joshi, president of the Maharashtra Tour Operators Association (MTOA), said they have seen cancellations to countries such as Thailand and Bhutan as they have closed their borders. “People who had booked well in advance stand to lose a substantial amount of their money,” he said.
At Pune’s Osho Commune, every new international arrival is being screened. Ma Amrit Sadhna, spokesperson of the commune, said in a reply to an email query that anyone who is unwell or has a temperature is being asked to stay outside until they are well.
“To date, we have not had any other situation as described in the NIV Testing Strategy. Should such a situation occur, we will follow their procedure. If they need to be referred directly to NIV, they are provided with the self-reporting form. We are watching the situation closely and adjusting our screening procedures as the situation changes,” the email read.
The commune’s administrators have started taking temperature of all people before they are allowed to enter the Osho auditorium for meditation.
Officials ask travel operators for info on tourists from affected nations
Pune district officials have asked tour and travel operators in the city to provide information about tourists and visitors who have travelled to the seven countries worst affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). District Collector Naval Kishore Ram said such people would be quarantined if they show any symptoms of the disease.
Ram and other district officials had a meeting with tour and travel operators and representatives of the hotel and hospitality industry to identify people who come in to the city after travelling to China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain or Germany after February 15.
“We will trace all these people, and those who need to be put in a quarantine, would be quarantined,” said Ram. He said contact tracing of all these people would also be carried out to prevent possible spread of the infection.
Ram pointed out that international travel was fairly common for Pune residents, both for leisure and business, and China was a frequently-visited destination for city residents as a large number of industries are based in the city. Most of the electronic spare parts of the automobile industry, which has a very prominent presence in the city, come from China. Similarly, the presence of German automobile giants in the city means people frequently travel to that country as well.
“All the travel and tour operators have been asked to submit details they have about people who would have travelled to these affected countries, and we will begin our work, testing these people and contact tracing, as soon as we have the data,” said Ram.
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