Allow us to reopen hotels, Goa’s tourism industry pleads with govt

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Goa’s tourism industry has sought a quick reopening of the hotel industry lest the prolonged lockdown causes businesses to shut down entirely making revival more difficult.

The tourism industry which contributes more than 9% to Goa’s GDP, has been hardest hit by the lockdown. It has claimed that if the government can’t give the industry any relief, it should at least allow it to resume business.

“Many people including those at the managerial level have lost their jobs. Those who still have their jobs are sent on unpaid leave. If the delay lasts longer it will be difficult to restart even if the government gives the go ahead,” Nilesh Shah the president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa told HT.

“The government should make its stance clear regarding the reopening of the sector. Right now many of us are receiving inquiries for later in the year but we cannot give customers any assurance that hotels will be open and what the protocols will be so that they can plan their travel and events,” Savio Mesias a hotel owner in Goa said.

Hotels have been closed in Goa since March and haven’t been accepting new bookings. While the government announced easier travel between states under Unlock 1, there is no clarity on when hotels would be allowed to reopen.

“If we have clarity regarding the SOPs for the restart, at least we can then get ready for our own SOPs,” Messias added.

Shah said opening even 50% of the hotels would be a start the industry needs to revive itself.

“We were promised that the industry would be allowed to open from the second week of June onwards. But even if it is allowed to open by July, then it should be done. Even if only 50% of the hotels open, at least it will be a start,” Shah said.

The tourism industry expects that the effects of coronavirus on travel will continue for up to a year. But it is hoping that travel for work and business will pick up in the coming months.

For Goa’s tourism sector, it is of little comfort that the lockdown has come during the off-season at a time when tourist traffic is low on account of the monsoon and European tourists returning home where the summer and spring are pleasant.

The Travel and Tourism Association of India has estimated that the Covid-19 pandemic will cost the state tourism industry far more than the Rs1,000-crore loss they had originally estimated and job losses to about 60,000-75,000 people unless remedial measures are taken.

Hotels have laid off staff en masse leaving people without a regular source of income since the lockdown began and stopped all travel.

Around 55 lakh foreign and domestic tourists visited the state in 2019 and contributed between 9-11% to the state’s GDP.

The industry has pitched for reduction in fees, taxes as well as a moratorium on repayments none of which have yet been accepted by the government.

The Goa government has yet to make its stance clear with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant saying that a decision is yet to be taken but could be taken by early next week in tune with the Centre’s guidelines.

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