The Tourism Policy and Master plan was passed this week. It can mean a lot to the tourism industry in the state, provided they make some necessary changes to their core i.e their Tourism Board and their policy decisions. This is the time Goa can reinvent itself, not as a 1960s partisan destination that only caters to the rich but all its tourists, especially the domestic ones.
It’s about time that the industry walked with its time and took into consideration its main target audience.
Goa has always remained attracted awards the foreign tourists due to their bigger pockets, but now that the pandemic is in the picture, this fantasy has been broken as no international flights are arriving in Goa, which has sent it spiraling into a loss.
The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) has set all its hopes in the government allowing international and charter flights to land in Goa. What they are not considering are the risks. The entire Europa Continent is in its second wave of the virus, which means severe restrictions on international traveling.
The two biggest charter groups for Goa have been Russia and the UK, both of which have seen a steady rise in its COVID numbers. Is Goa even ready to cater to possibly risked tourists, since the state has removed its travel restrictions too?
Russia is, without a doubt, Goa’s biggest tourist audience at the moment. Goa is poised to welcome their dear Russian tourists back by seeking permission for their flights to land in Dabolim International.
But currently, Russia ranks fourth in the total number of cases in the world, with at least 13 recorded cases a day. The total patient count for COVID in the country is at 13 lakhs and rising.
The UK on the other hand had seen a very fast increase in COVID infections in the beginning, up until May. While the UK saw a decline in cases, allowing it to ease restrictions and open up gradually, till August it saw a steady amount of cases. All of them easily contained. But recently, it went from a four-figure case to average of 13000 cases a day to 17000 cases a day, as of October first week.
Goa currently caters to domestic tourists, mainly families and groups of friends, many of whom travel to the state in their own vehicles, thereby avoiding the risk of infection during the journey. There is no virus testing for incoming travelers, so there is a risk that they might bring the virus even if it is minimized due to travel in private vehicles.
On the other hand, if charter travel is allowed, there will be hundreds of people traveling inside the enclosed confines of the aircraft for hours, at the end of which there will be a significant increase in the risk of infection if there is a positive person on the trip.
Charter tourism operates on low prices and full occupancy of flights. Operators can not comply with the physical distance requirements on the aircraft, as this would significantly raise the price of the ticket, which will be a big downside for visitors.
Rather than waiting for international travel restrictions to be eased, the Goa tourism industry must seriously consider marketing to the Indian market if it wants to make any revenue this season, as it prepares for the transformation that this new 25-year policy will bring.