In what is being perceived as a glimmer of hope for Goa’s tourism revival, the Goa Airport has stated that certain charter flight operators have booked their slots at Goa’s Dabolim airport till March next year.
According to Goa Airport Director Gagan Malik, several charter flight operators have gone ahead and booked their slots at the Goa airport. Around 350 charter flight slots have been booked till March-end of next year.
Though the exact numbers will have to be calculated, the Airport Director Gagan Malik confirmed that the slots have been booked. “The exact number of slots will have to be calculated, but roughly the number stands at 350 charter flight slots,” he said.
Goa’s tourism sector contributes about 9% to the state’s GDP and with the coronavirus pandemic, the industry has been badly affected. Furthermore, international tourists, which make up for a large chunk of Goa’s tourism numbers, continue to be missing as international flights have not yet resumed.
The tourism season which commences in October has however already begun, but with just domestic tourists. The influx of domestic numbers right now is the only thing that has been keeping the tourism industry floating, much say.
The Airport Director also mentioned that domestic tourism has been on the brighter side saying, “domestic tourism is picking up,” as more passengers are arriving into the state, than leaving.
For international tourism to resume, tourism stakeholders have been eagerly waiting for international flights to resume. In the past, an air bubble system was requested, however, the MHA has not yet responded.
“International commercial operations have not yet commenced. Only once they begin, and operators open up their bookings, then we will get a clearer picture,” the Airport Director said. He also added that the process by charter operators to book their slots began since last month. The majority of the slots booked are from Russia and the United Kingdom, which every year contributes largely to Goa’s foreign charter arrivals.
With 350 slots of charter operators booked till the end of this tourism season, the commencement of international flights appears to be the only thing hindering operations for international tourism to begin in the state.
Meanwhile, the Goa Airport also hopes to touch about 70-80% of its flight handling capacity by December end. Right now, the figure stands at about 35%.
Malik said that prior to the pandemic, the airport was handling about 85-90 departures a day, but currently, it is handling around 21 flights. The figures will increase in the days to come, he said.
The next stage remains to open up beach shacks along with Goa’s coastal belts, as the majority of them are still struggling as migrant labour has not returned. Also, several have complained about the high license rates set up by the government.
This month appears to be a key one to set the ball rolling to begin Goa’s tourism activities, as further delays would only mean a blow to the industry that is struggling to keep its stakeholders afloat.