Ahead of the world-renowned Christmas-New Year celebrations in Goa, the tourism sector in the state is keenly watching the likely impact of a new coronavirus variant that was detected in southern Africa recently and one which the World Health Organisation has christened ‘Omicron’ and labelled a ‘Variant of Concern’, stakeholders said on Sunday.
They said chartered flights and international services bringing in foreign tourists start arriving by the middle of December, heralding what the sector is expecting to be another fruitful season post a robust one during Diwali as the coastal state became the preferred destination for domestic travellers after the Covid-19 pandemic ebbed.
“We are waiting and watching. Till now, at least, there is no impact (of Omicron) but we will have to wait and watch all the developments over the next 15 days. If cases go up, then protocols will have to be adhered to even more strictly,” Travel and Tourism Association of Goa president Nilesh Shah said.
He said that lack of precaution has been the primary reason why cases went up in the past, though the country is better equipped to tackle an outbreak now as some 70 per cent of the eligible population has taken at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Explaining the situation with chartered flights expected to arrive in the state, Shah said, “The process of issuing visas has started. The severe Covid-19 wave in Russia is cooling off, the cases in the UK are coming down. The Union government has allowed international flights from December 15, and many tourists come here on scheduled flights.”
Putting up a brave front when asked if there was fear of losing the Christmas and New Year season to a resurgent virus variant, Shah said Goa was a safe destination as 100 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. “Moreover, we are not afraid as such. We have to learn to do business with the presence of Covid-19 around,” Shah asserted.