The green signal for international commercial flights from 49 global cities under the ‘air bubble’ arrangement by India has opened a window of hope for Goa’s beleaguered tourism industry which is lobbying hard for charter flights to be permitted under the same arrangement.
To-and-fro flights from some 18 countries have already been started by the Union Civil Aviation ministry under the ‘Air Bubble’ arrangement this month although tickets to these sanctioned destinations can be booked only through Air India.
Normal international commercial flights, however, continue to be banned till September 30.
The air-bubble pact has been formalised with over 25 countries including UAE, Kenya, Bhutan, Canada, UK, Germany, USA, France and Russia among others.
The Goa Chamber and Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) have recently petitioned the government to permit ‘charter flights’ under the air-bubble principle so that the nearly 2000-odd small hotels can reopen for the first time since the pandemic hit last March.
According to TTAG president Nilesh Shah, of the 4,000-odd registered hotels in Goa, only some 1400 opened up during the pandemic.
Most of the smaller hotels are dependent on charters for business as are other allied businesses and services like shacks, taxi services and musicians in the entertainment industry, Shah added.
Smaller hotels including the one to four-star hotels and those having up to 100 rooms can think of opening up and the local economy reviving to some extent if the charters are permitted, Shah added.
The State government has also backed the demand of the industry and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has formally petitioned Union Home Minister Amit Shah with the demand that charter flights be permitted.
Three Union ministries -- Home, Civil Aviation and Tourism -- will have to be on the same page if charter flights are to be permitted.
Shah meanwhile said, some officials of charter operators from Russia and CIS States were recently down in Goa and have surveyed the possibility of commencing operations.
“It is important that a decision is taken soon by the Centre as delay could see diversion of the charter operations to other destinations like Egypt,” Shah added.