Panaji: Goa Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar on Tuesday said tourism activities should resume only after the entire population of the coastal state is completely vaccinated against COVID-19.
While the Goa government has allowed hotels to function, restaurants and other tourism-related activities have been shut due to the curfew, which has been in place in the state since May 9, when COVID-19 cases started peaking.
The minister said only tourists who are ‘fully vaccinated’ should be allowed to enter the state.
‘We can’t keep Goa’s tourism industry shut forever, as it is an important backbone of our state’s economy,’ Ajgaonkar said.
The tourism industry can resume all its activities once the entire population of the state is ‘fully vaccinated’ with both doses of the vaccines, he said.
The state should also open itself for tourists with caution, by allowing entry only to those visitors who have taken both doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, the minister said.
‘Once tourism resumes in Goa fully, the state will take up an intensive media campaign, inviting domestic tourists here,’ he said, adding that the industry will have to earn back its past glory, as it has suffered losses due to the pandemic.
In case of international travellers, Ajgaonkar said the state will have to depend on the Centre’s decision for resumption of chartered flights.
Meanwhile, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) is pinning its hope on 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.
The corporation has been running into ‘historic losses’ since last two years due to COVID-19 pandemic, GTDC managing director Nikhil Desai said.
‘We are pinning our hopes on early resumption of 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.
‘At least during the last lockdown, the state government had taken over some of our residencies to set up quarantine centres. But this time, there has been no occupancy,’ Desai 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.