COVID-19 curbs: Goa hotels brace for cancellation of bookings

PANAJI: The already battered tourism industry in Goa is bracing for a spate of cancellation of hotel bookings after the state goes under severe curbs from Thursday to control the rising COVID-19 cases.

The Goa government on Wednesday announced a “lockdown” in the state beginning April 29 till May 3.

“The lockdown will come into force on Thursday evening and remain effective till Monday morning (May 3) to break the chain of the coronavirus transmission,” Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said.

The announcement came as a jolt to the tourism industry, the backbone of Goa’s economy, which has been witnessing cancellation of hotel bookings after the adjoining Maharashtra and Karnataka announced restrictions on movement of people as part of measures to stem the COVID-19 spread.

Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) President Nilesh Shah told PTI that cancellations had become the order of the day after Maharashtra and Karnatakaimposed curbs.

The four-day-long restrictions will add to the cancellations, further affecting the finances of the hotel industry, he said.

Out of 3,500 hotels registered with the state government, only 1,400 have been operating in the pandemic time, he said.

Before the lockdown in Goa was announced today, hotels were running at just 5 to 10 per cent occupancy despite huge discounts being offered to tourists to keep the business running in these critical times, Shah said.

He said tourists who are currently in Goa will have to stay indoors during the four days of lockdown, while those who have booked tickets for travelling back home can leave.

The airport is open during the lockdown period,” he said.

Altone DCosta, a South Goa-based hotelier who owns a five-star resort at Benaulim, said he has temporarily shutdown the property due to low occupancy and also to avoid the COVID-19 spread.

Tourism has been down in the state right from the time COVID-19 hit the country (in early 2020).

It will take time before the industry revives.

“The lockdown is just a temporary step but as far as the pandemic is concerned, it will continue for long,” he said.

A senior official from the state tourism department said the COVID-19 situation is unlikely to improve much before September-October.

“We have lost this season, now we are pinning hopes on the next tourist season,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Sawant said industries will be exempted from the purview of the curbs but public transport will not be allowed.

“Weekly markets will not be allowed to function during the lockdown. Casinos will also remain shut,” he said.

The state  reported 3,101 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, taking its infection count to 85,009, a health department official said.

With the death of 24 patients during the day, the fatality count of the coastal state reached 1,110, he said.

On Tuesday, the state had reported 2,110 cases and 31 deaths.

The number of recovered patients in the state rose to 65,070 as 839 of them got discharge from hospitals on Wednesday.

The number of active cases in the state is now 18,829, the official said.

“With 8018 new tests, Goa’s overall test count has gone up to 6,40,149,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said a strict lockdown will be imposed in the state between April 29 and May 3 to break the chain of coronavirus transmission.

Goa’s COVID-19 figures are as follows: Positive cases 85,009, new cases 3,101, death toll 1,110, discharged 65,070, active cases 18,829, samples tested till date 6,85,009.