With international tourism likely to remain inactive for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maharashtra Minister of State (MoS) for Tourism Aditi Tatkare said talks were on with other state governments to promote domestic tourism.
The sector has come to a standstill in the country since a nationwide lockdown was implemented on March 24.
Tatkare said during a recent video-conference, state Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray, his Rajasthan counterpart and the tourism secretaries of the two states discussed on how they could revive the sector after the lockdown was lifted. “International tourism, I feel, will be closed for at least one-and-a-half year until a vaccine (for COVID-19) is developed. That will give us the chance to promote Indian tourism more. We are working on the lines of ‘Videsh bahut dekh liya, ab apna desh dekh lo’ (Enough of seeing foreign countries, now see your own). (During the video-conference) we discussed how we can promote tourism in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. We are planning to do this (meetings) with other states as well. If we start planning now, then by November-December we will be able to open up,” said Tatkare.
The MoS said there were two possibilities: either Indians may not want to travel at all, or due to the mental exhaustion from staying at home during the lockdown (from March 24 to May 3, so far), they may want to travel.
Tourism, the young NCP leader said, will also undergo a makeover in the days ahead and discussions are also being held over allowing bookings only to those who have tested negative for the coronavirus. “…like travellers to Africa are required to take the yellow fever vaccine to be allowed entry, we are thinking whether something like that should be done,” Tatkare said.
Highlighting the need to make sanitisation facilities at tourist spots mandatory, she said, “We may not have given this a lot of importance in the past, but we will have to have mobile toilets, handwashing facilities, sanitising tunnels and temperature guns at entry points to check if anyone is symptomatic (to novel coronavirus). This will have to be a part of our lifestyle. Hygiene was never as important as it is now.”
Tatkare added that in the days ahead, interactions will also be held with states that thrive on tourism like Kerala, Gujarat, and the northeastern states. Tourist spots, she said, will have to reopen in phases. “We cannot open everything in one go. We will have to do it phases. For example, if we open Ajanta Ellora (in Aurangabad) first, the entire tourism department will concentrate its efforts there to see if we are falling short on any front, how many people are visiting, are facilities enough and if over 14 days we find there is nothing wrong, only then we can think of reopening other tourist spots.”
Among the major challenges, she said, was the reopening of places of worship, like temples, dargahs, and churches, that people may throng.
“Tourist places can be opened a little later, but places like Siddhivinayak, Shirdi, Haji Ali, Mahim church will have to be opened. They are visited not only by devotees but also by tourists. That is one thing we will have to properly take care of,” said Tatkare.
The MoS added Maharashtra was also in discussions with other states to introduce ‘special packages’ for tourists. For example, Tatkare said, tourists visiting both Rajasthan and Maharashtra may be offered special deals by resorts or hotels in both the states. This, she said, may revive the dormant hotel business.
“Confidence building among tourists will be key for assuring them that the places they visit are safe and sanitised,” said Tatkare.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines