PANAJI, India — Business and tourism representative bodies of western Indian state Goa, on Aug. 17, urged the state’s chief minister Pramod Sawant to resume international charter flights to revive tourism. 

Tourism, the most adversely affected sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, is one of Goa’s major revenue-generating industries.

The tourism industry employs over 40 million skilled and trained manpower and generates about $29 billion foreign exchange per annum, according to the organizations. 

The Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industries (GCCI) and Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) made a joint representation to the chief minister. 

They said that a complete closure of international flights and visas since March 2020 led several operators and stakeholders to close offices amid severe financial constraints.

“With Goa being one of the leading states for tourism, we propose that charter flights are allowed to land from safe destinations that have allowed Indians to travel to their countries on a tourist visa,” the associations said.

“Flights are already operating between two countries, such as Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.”

They argued that tourists arriving in Goa don’t travel to any other state, and the majority spend their time at their respective hotels, making it easy to “control and monitor them.” 

Some recommendations were made to Sawant to undertake measures to ensure that charter tourism can restart in Goa. These include announcements to be made immediately for the opening of International tourist charters starting October so that foreign operators have time to market and prepare for the operations and this coming season is not lost.

If there is a third wave of Covid-19, the state government can cancel charter operations by September or October.

Another recommendation was to work out a special charter tourist package visa which can be issued manually by the local embassies, or temporary landing permits can be given on arrival to tourists, as done in the past.

It was suggested that standard operating procedures be put in place for all international tourists that require them to be fully vaccinated or produce a negative Covid-19 test report. 

A dedicated area for arrivals and departure at the airport for these international passengers and dedicated and reserved beds in hospitals for these passengers in case some travelers return a positive test for Covid-19 were among the recommendations.

All hotels, transporters, and suppliers have to follow strict standard operating procedures, which by now they all have been—as noted by the organizations—since the opening of domestic tourism. 

Later, on Aug. 17, Sawant said the state will make a request to the center with regard to restarting charter flights.

“We are ready to (re)open the tourism sector by taking all precautions and putting SOPs (in place), but till now, we have not finalized them,” Sawant said.

“Until the government of India gives permission, we cannot start charter flights. I told them the last time. We had requested to start charters to the union home and tourism ministries.”

Sawant said that the government of Goa will write to the central government for the resumption of charter flights.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Amrita Das and Krishna Kakani

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