Irrespective of Covid, tourists should visit destinations: Kishan Reddy

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Irrespective of whether the third Covid wave hits Goa or not, people should travel to tourism destinations, attend meetings and festivals by following necessary Covid protocols, Union Minister for Tourism and Culture G. Kishan Reddy said on Saturday.

Addressing a press conference here, Reddy also said that the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid, could prove to be a dampener to the movement of international tourist footfalls to India.

“The tourism sector not just in India, but across the world was affected. Domestic tourism is picking up now and people are travelling to destinations in a big number. But today, there is debate about the third wave,” Reddy told mediapersons.

“But I urge the people, whether the third wave hits or not, everyone should follow corona protocol and travel to tourist destinations. People should follow their itinerary. State governments have also taken their own decisions with regard to following protocols,” he also said.

Commenting on the immediate future of the charter tourism flights to Goa, which had recently been allowed by the Union Home Ministry, Reddy said that the emergence of Omicron globally could prove to be a dampener.

“We have made a decision and we have met tour operators from different countries in Delhi. We had opened charter flights, but because of the new variant, countries have imposed restrictions on tour operators, therefore a problem has cropped up again,” he said.

He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that international cruise tourism should be pursued on a mission mode and said that his Ministry was working with the Union Ministry of Shipping to further the Prime Minister’s agenda.

“Cruise tourism is a part of the Sagarmala initiative, our shipping ministry is encouraging it. In the coming days cruise tourism development will be taken up on a mission mode, as per directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said, adding that officials of his Ministry would be meeting with their counterparts in the Shipping Ministry to work out an action plan to start cruise terminals across India’s coastline.

Reddy also said that Goa would stand to benefit from the central government’s international cruise terminal initiative.

“If cruise tourism is developed in Goa the largest amount of benefit will be accrued to Goa. Andaman, Vishakhapatanam, Chennai all these destinations can be connected to Goa. Passenger terminals will be developed in ports and the Tourism ministry has given the shipping department money to develop the same,” he said.

Reddy, who also said that Goa would stand to benefit by developing heli-taxis — helicopter taxis — which he said had worked well as a concept in the North Eastern states.

“In the northeast, we have developed heli-taxis in many places. It can be done here too. Goa is a tourism destination, it should have a helipad… We also do gap funding for helicopter taxis to control rates,” he said.

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