HERALD: How has TTAG prepared for the upcoming tourist season?
NILESH N SHAH: TTAG has understood that COVID-19 is here to stay for a while and we have to learn to do business around it. We have urged all segments of tourism to follow all government Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and look into safety aspects of the customer, team members and locals around. We have also requested the industry to give best of training to team members to cope with the current challenges.
The other aspect we are taking care of is working towards ‘Ease of doing business’ which includes seeing to it that all the tourism businesses run smoothly without any hassle. We have been trying to get the government to facilitate licensing and ease of obtaining approvals for running a tourism related business.
HERALD: What is your expectation this season and why?
NNS: Please understand that it is a matter of survival for the tourism industry in this financial year. There will be very slow growth to start with in the current month which will gradually rise as confidence grows back in the traveller. Also, if all goes well a vaccine will be announced in the month of November which will send a lot of positivity among all of us which will in-turn help in bringing in more tourists into Goa, December onwards.
Domestic tourists will be the key for our survival and has tremendous scope as people will feel safer to travel within the country and also since outbound tourism is at a standstill it will add to our numbers. It will be of great help to the tourism sector if the travel bubble that we have proposed from Russia, UK and Poland is approved by the government as it can bring in foreign tourists into Goa which will help boost the industry with long stay customers from Russia and UK who have plans of flying into Goa this winter.
HERALD: Why should people come to Goa?
NNS: Goa has its own charm. People come to Goa for its scenic beauty, heritage and quiet beaches which provide a perfect retreat. The type of facilities Goa can offer for each segment of people is commendable and each one of them can find their own space and feel welcome. The tourism industry in Goa offers very good direct connectivity from almost all parts of India. The safety protocols that we have in place should encourage domestic and international tourists to come into Goa without hesitation.
HERALD: What safety measures are being taken with regards to COVID-19?
NNS: According to whatever little knowledge we have of the virus, the basic measures are being taken like sanitisation of hotel rooms, restaurants and cabs up to standards, compulsory wearing of masks and gloves by the staff, thermal checking of each guest and also providing testing if required. In addition food is served with prescribed SOPs while maintaining social distance. Even linen and towels are encouraged to be washed with prescribed norms.
HERALD: Any SOPs for the visitors?
NNS: Tourists need to follow all the SOPs laid out. For example, if travelers are flying, then their luggage needs to be sanitised outside the airport before entering, they need to wear masks, face shield and gloves are also recommended. They have to cooperate and do their thermal screening as and when required. While checking in they need to follow social distancing and preferably get their boarding card printed beforehand.
Similarly, people coming by road, need to follow the norms as prescribed by the government. Once the railway starts, given SOPs will have to be followed. In addition to that they should understand that they need to take care of themselves and others around them once they have arrived.
HERALD: Are our tourist vehicles, which includes taxis and two-wheelers sanitised? Any SOPs for them?
NNS: The operators of these vehicles are sanitising the seats after every ride as they themselves are worried of their own safety. In addition to that few taxis are using shields between the driver and passengers. Yes, there are SOPs for them that include providing sanitised vehicle, wearing masks compulsorily and restricting number of passengers per vehicle if possible.
HERALD: Are you expecting foreign, domestic or tourists from drivable distance?
NNS: If the tourism related travel bubble proposed from Russia, UK, Poland and Ukraine is approved by the government along with e-visa for tourists then we will definitely see foreign charter tourists coming into Goa as people in general want to move out and especially tourists from Russia are more inclined towards coming in. Even if scheduled international flights which were operating into Goa are allowed, we will see foreign tourists coming into Goa from our European source markets. As the trend indicates people from neighbouring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra will come into Goa for short holidays by their own vehicles which they will prefer and feel safer in and this will definitely help the industry. People within the country are also more likely to come into Goa as it is a safer option than international travel.
HERALD: What is the message you want to send out to Goans?
NNS: We have to understand that the economy has to restart. People need their jobs back for their survival and we need to do our business following all SOPs. If the tourists coming in are following protocols then the public also has to send the right message of welcoming tourists into Goa without any fear and making them comfortable along with right messaging from the Govt. This will go a long way in the revival of our industry which is the bread and butter for the majority of us.
The most important part in all this is the ease of doing business, which we are looking at from the government in obtaining licenses, NOCs, approvals to enable us to start operations.