That the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses and industries in India is not news anymore. While the nation is implementing ‘Unlock 1.0’ with varying degrees of leniency, in Goa, there’s still uncertainty about the revival of the tourism industry that the state relies rather heavily on. With more than 700 COVID-19 cases in a small state like Goa, it looks unlikely that the tourism industry will bounce back anytime soon.
The Goa tourism department has sought financial help from the Centre to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the state’s tourism industry. But the industry stakeholders narrate a different story, numbers suggest that the industry was struggling even before the coronavirus crisis.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of Rs 20 trillion stimulus package to restart the economy, Saurabh Khanna, General Manager, The Park (Baga) and The Park (Calangute) expresses surprise at the omission of the tourism and hospitality industry in the list of beneficiaries.
“The tourism and hospitality industry also supports other allied industries. We were hoping, and are still hopeful that we will receive some benefit from the government. Unlike other industries, we are not really asking for a bailout package but support in the form of relief on fixed expenses.”Saurabh Khanna, GM, The Park (Baga and Calangute)
An Industry in Desperate Need of Funds
This was when State Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar had already written to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, seeking help for the tourism industry from the Prime Minister's relief fund for COVID-19. The minister said that since the state already has a tourism policy, the government wants to introduce a financial package for hoteliers, vendors, shack owners and others dependent on tourism so that they can restart their business, before adding,
“How much fund is required for it has to be decided by a panel of experts. We will have to work out a plan to get out of this crisis. The state government should only allow tourists after they are certified negative for COVID-19 in the coastal state after the lockdown is lifted and the practice should continue for the next two years until the situation normalises at the global level.”Manohar Ajgaonkar, Minister for Tourism, Goa
A report by Tandem Research (a Goa-based interdisciplinary research collective that generates policy insights at the interface of technology, society, and sustainability) published in the local daily Herald claims to have investigated into the impact of COVID-19 on the Goa’s tourism industry.
The report suggests that the tourism industry is currently the biggest industry in Goa, making up 40 percent of the state revenue in 2018. It also states that 40 percent of the Goan population is dependent on tourism for an income, as well as many migrant workers who travel to Goa to work in the industry, and raises fears that up to 70,000 tourism jobs could be lost as a result of the coronavirus crisis in the state.
“By the time the lockdown kicked in, we were doing good till March and the rest of the season was looking bright. Then we experienced a sudden surge in cancellations for bookings of April and May.”Amar Kumar, Director, Iksha (Luxury Villas)
Post COVID-19, the Industry Bets on Domestic Travellers
Coco Shambhala, with a very small inventory of award-winning sustainable luxury villas in Goa and Sindhudurg, has been facilitating conscious travel for over 10 years. Owner, Giles Knapton says:
“We are allowing our existing customers to pre-book their stay that can be used anytime in the next 24 months. We have had an incredible sales month which means that we probably are going to have one of our busiest years ever, as soon as we are allowed to open.”Giles Knapton, Owner, Coco Shambhala (Goa and Sindhudurg)
What’s interesting is that, in December 2019, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) had said that the number of foreigners arriving in Goa during the ongoing tourism season had come down by around 30 percent compared to 2018. Then, in January 2020, a pre-budget memorandum was sent to the Chief Minister of Goa raising concerns about the tourism sector suffering from de-growth and negative publicity in the international sphere, due to harassment of tourists, crime and poor infrastructure. These issues had led to a decrease in tourist arrivals over the past few years.
The COVID-19 crisis has only worsened the situation. But people like Schulen Fernandes, Wendell Rodricks’ creative heir, remains hopeful of a revival.
“With international travel not opening for a long time, with domestic travellers coming in, there will be a sense of wanting to add value to their lives in terms of the little travel plans. India is festive; after all that we have been through, people are going to look forward to buying a little bit of happiness in terms of consumer experience on a holiday.”Schulen Fernandes, Creative Director, Wendell Rodricks