Ajit John;The tourism industry is without a doubt one of the more important job and revenue generators in the state. Tens of thousands of jobs are generated by the industry directly and indirectly. The decision to allow charter flights to land can certainly resuscitate the industry.Savio Messias a hotelier and former head of the TTAG said the operators had already commenced operations in other countries. He said they had requested the government to give the operators notice so they could start their operations with regards to marketing the destination. He said “We are not saying start immediately; tourists don’t travel overseas based on a decision taken overnight. We have to take precautions too. I believe they should announce bookings from Nov 1 or Dec 1. We have been asking the government to take a decision immediately because they take too long. Charter bookings are done six months in advance. We have to also announce protocols. A lot of formalities need to be completed. Egypt has already commenced operations. We have to announce that date and start planning.”The reaction from charter operators was one of great optimism. Abida Kumar of Minar Travels said they would have to now start calling back staff and then the long process of talking to partners would commence she said. Abida said “We need to negotiate with hotels, work our rates with our counterparts and they send it to our partners abroad who will then market it. We should be in full flight by November 15. I can say Russia and the UK are looking forward to coming over to Goa. The fact that Goa is vaccinated has thrilled them to bits. Goa is ready and the people are waiting to come.”Sheikh Ismail of Concord Exotic Voyages said he was busy meeting with the good domestic movement. With regards to the charter flights he said he has initiated the process of visiting his partners in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. He said they would need a minimum of thirty days for marketing and other jobs that needed to be completed. There was a large number of permission which had to be needed before the flights could land. Sheikh said he expected a minimum of 25,000-30,000 tourists to come in this year if everything went as per plan. This of course would be a drop from the usual 55,000-60,000 every season.Ernest Dias of Kuoni Travel India said he had worked with the TTAG and met with the CM and the Union Minister of State and this effort was on for several months. He said the CM met with the home minister and this was the end result. He said “Even if the announcement is made, the first charter flight can come in by November 1. We have been talking to the English and the Russians and they have shown keen interest. The Russians had three or four flights everyday but this time they may not come in their usual numbers but they will come. The English I believe will take a little longer but they will come. The government has announced that the first 500 visas will not be charged a fee which is nice. It may work as an incentive. Trade and tour operators will offer attractive rates to bring them back. Prices will play a key role in the decision making.”Finally Nilesh Shah the President of TTAG said if the announcement was made now, flights could be expected from November. He said tourists were very keen with regards to Goa. He said Egypt was opening up after 3-4 years and it was important Goa did not lose to them. Perhaps he felt Goa could operate in a bubble and help the tourist come in safely.
One can only wish and hope a decision is made soon and importantly everyone concerned follows all the protocols because to not do so would be disastrous for everyone.