Goa enters the concluding quarter of this rather forgetful year, marred by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a deep sense of hope as it looks to revive its spiraling economy with some positive measures by opening its doors to tourism
The situation of Covid 19 in Goa
While Goa is still battling to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state government has adopted a pragmatic approach and has opened up the state’s borders with neighboring Maharashtra and Karnataka for trade and travel purpose. The Goa Airport has recently struck down a rule which made it mandatory for domestic travelers to carry COVID-19 negative certificates on arrival. This move follows a directive issued by the Union Home ministry under guidelines of ‘Unlock 4’ which has eased the restrictions on travel during the coronavirus outbreak.
Even the Goa government has removed the restrictions as far as the inter-state travel is concerned as there is no more a Covid19-ve report required for Domestic travelers. This has definitely opened up doors for tourists but still, travelers are a bit cautious and are taking foolproof measures to keep the covid infection at bay. As of now, Goa has reported 39,082 covid cases of which 34,252 have recovered while 514 people have succumbed.
The Goa State Chief Minister’s office has eased restrictions on travel from September 1 onwards under the “Unlock 4” guidelines, and as such testing which was compulsory before for those entering into Goa is now not needed. In case, a traveler is found symptomatic then he can test himself within Goa. Also, all restrictions on the inter-state movement of people, vehicles have also been lifted. Flight operations have also begun at Goa airport.
That apart, metro rail is also being permitted to operate by the MHA, which is a major development, but in a phased manner and in consultation with the Central Government. With the state opening up its activities and travel allowed, various social, academic or cultural activities have been given a green signal by the center with a cap of 100 persons, but subject to the local situation and adhering to the prescribed SOPs.
Are travel activities open in Goa during COVID19?
Goa is undoubtedly the most sought-after water sports destination in India. Be it beach water sports activity, scuba diving in deep-sea or beach shack activities and trekking to Dudhsagar falls, travellers used to hit the beaches in scores to enjoy water sports activities. However, with the prevailing situation of Covid-19, most operators are yet to open up and offer their services while some have decided to go ahead. But, all this is subject to various factors as social crowding and distancing need to be balanced and this is a tricky act in the current scenario. However, the Department of Tourism has clearly mentioned in its advisory that booking of tours and allocation of slots should be properly followed to avoid large gatherings.
Latest Update: The Goa tourism department (on 16th October), has allowed watersports and cruise operators to resume its tourism activities with immediate effect. Source: Goa Tour Packages.
This covers regular temperature checks of employees or tourists and ensuring that guests are taken in small groups with a physical distance of 2 feet maintained between guests. This also involves a list of various Do’s and Don’ts, travel, testing, and protective measures including hygiene, sanitization, social distancing, etc. Since most water activities are on site, there is a threat of contamination and a high risk of infection. So it’s a matter of time that such activities get a go-ahead in Toto but only the time ahead will tell.
Hotel and Resorts
The hotel business has slowly but surely got back on track as far as Goa is concerned. Thanks to the Tourism Department’s initiative which has certified select hotels/resorts in Goa to re-open their business, but with certain clauses. Only select hotels or resorts have been permitted to open and welcome guests. Even guest houses, homestay facilities have opened up their services to suit the tourist’s budget. This is under a strict clause that hotels with the best hygiene and sanitization facilities will be given the go-ahead to resume their hospitality services.
As per the recent data, the state tourism board has allowed around 650 hotels to register and restart their operations. Goa is a world tourist destination and with plush hotels and resorts dotting the coast of this tiny state, the best properties are up for grabs for a hassle-free holiday in Goa. There have even been talks that the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), is eyeing international tourists from Poland, Russia, and the UK once India establishes travel bubbles with these countries. Also renowned Yoga Retreats in Goa have opened up bookings for their online courses from October 2020 onwards. Pre-booking online forms are available to book your place for Yoga Teacher Training courses or retreats.
Restaurant and Bar
As per the latest guidelines issued by the State’s tourism department, restaurants and bars have been allowed to open and do their business as usual, However, wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing is mandatory for safety purposes. Barring beach-side shacks, several bars/restaurants have already begun full-fledged operations all over the state, following MHA guidelines. The resumption of bars and restaurants is a good sign as business owners are set to attract a major chunk of tourists and visitors considering that the New Year’s Eve is not far away. However, opening has been allowed only if all SOPs (Systematic Operating Procedures) and guidelines have been followed. Social distancing will have to be followed as per the MHA guidelines.
Goa is a state that believes in communal harmony as various festivities and religious activities across various spectrums of society are held all around the year. Be it Hindus, Muslims or Catholics each community has its own religious celebrations and compulsions to attend to, and therefore, churches, temples become a part of offering one’s worship and prayers. Goa’s Famous temples like Mangeshi and Shanta Durga are as important as the churches of Old Goa. But with the Covid pandemic in context, there is restricted entry into these places of worship as opening them in totality will result in breaking the norms of social distancing which is not the order of the day.
Hence there are still curbs in place. Even the recent Ganesh Chaturthi festival wasn’t held with the usual fanfare and public participation in August, fearing the spread of Covid-19 infection if large scale gathering were allowed at various places.
Guidelines from Goa tourism
Aimed at reviving the state’s dwindling economy due to the Covid pandemic, Goa announced the reopening of its borders for domestic tourism a couple of months back. However, this came with certain riders. Earlier, travelers had to carry COVID negative certificates and undergo a mandatory check on entering the state and if tested positive had to return back or get quarantined in Goa. To facilitate the tourists, the state tourism department had marked selected hotels where travelers could avail their pre-bookings. Also, tourists were permitted to enter the state through flights, trains that halt only in particular stations like Margao, Thivim or Vasco with the option of travel by road. The thermal screening was also made compulsory at every entry point of the state. Two-week isolation for positive cases was also ordered under quarantine. But the latest, revision of guidelines says that travelers need not carry negative COVID reports while moving into Goa via air or land travel. Even testing on arrival is no longer mandatory nor staying under quarantine compulsory.
New Tourism Policy to lift State
With a prime motive of strengthening the sliding economy (due to Covid-19) and extending employment to the youth of the land, the state government has approved the long-awaited Goa Tourism Policy 2020. This policy comes with a vision to transform the state and make it the “most preferred destination around the year for high-spending tourists” in 2024. Aimed at exploring tourism over the next 25 years, the vision document has a new Tourism Board in place which will serve as the backbone for all decisions directed towards planning, development and marketing of Goa tourism and exploring employment opportunities and reviving tourism infrastructure from beach belts to the hinterland to explore eco-tourism.