COVID – 19, the pandemic has played havoc with economies the world over, having turned them into one large or the Great Lockdown, resulting in having triggered the worst ever recession, worldwide, ever since after the Great Depression.

Fortunately, over the time, we can see some economies opening up while some are still struggling with the pandemic. However the factors like absence of a suitable vaccine, strength of recovery, country specific, are having an uneven impact on the countries, the world over.

The most heavily impacted industry, world over, has been the Tourism, Travel and the Hospitality industries mainly because they are all inter related, and complement each other, growth wise.

As is quite obvious that it is the Tourism Industry of a country that generates foreign exchange while at the same time is also responsible for regional development and supports many related businesses directly or indirectly.

More over being a labour intensive industry it also commands a major share of a countries employment rate. Unfortunately the impact of the pandemic has had a very big negative on all these aspects, as related to the Tourism industry, as in loss of jobs, closure of hotels, laying off of tour guides etc.

Now after the extended subsequent lockdowns and ever since the process of Unlocks started, things have sort of begun to look up. As reported by the IANS, according to the advisor to the Tourism and Hospitality Committee of the CII, Mr Deepak Haksar, tourists have started indulging in outings, leading to a semblance of improvement in the tourism and hospitality sector.

An increase in the number of tourists opting for domestic leisure or vacation-related travel to Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Goa etc. has resulted in an increase in the demand for hotels and resorts in these states.

Also Read: How Will We Travel During Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

It means that for the time being, this industry is copelloed to depend on the domestic tourist for its survival as the international tourist is still bound by the restrictions imposed on international travel.

The continuous process of Unlocks over a period of time by the Government of India has in fact resulted in the opening up of the markets, an ease, though slow but sure, in its travel guidelines keeping in mind all the necessary precautions.

Of these the last one at present, the process of Unlock 5 is bound to have a major impact on the Tourism, Travel and the Hospitality industries.

In the latest Avatar of Unlocks the Unlock 5, the government of India has spelled out a broad layout of guidelines, while leaving the specifics to be finalized by the states considering their standings as per the prevalence of the pandemic, in their respective regions and conditions specific to them, while taking all the preventive measure to ensure safety of its populace against the pandemic.

As a result all the states are now working out their strategies for opening up their facilities to tourists, and other visitors, while sticking on to the guidelines of the Unlock 4 in the meanwhile, while some of the states however have come up with some guidelines in this respect and shall be firming up more of these in line with the government of India’s notified guidelines.

Although the Centre (MHA), based on feedback received from States and UTs, and extensive consultations held with related Central Ministries and Departments, has permitted more activities outside of the containment zones of the states, as per their notification of Wednesday the 30th September, as a part of the sequential unlock procedure following the lockdown as imposed by the government, in view of the pandemic.

Also Read: Lessons Learnt During Traveling That Help to Keep Safe Yourself

Let us discuss some of the travel related Unlock 5 Guidelines as notified by the government of India, on the basis of which the states are expected to formulate their guidelines and strategies,

Below Are Some New Normal Guidelines:   

Regarding travel related guidelines, applicable, both in the states/UT’s and the Centre, it is important for you to know that for the time being all the international air travel, barring those as permitted by MHA, will continue to remain suspended till October 31st.

However the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has clarified in a statement that this ban would not be applicable to international all-cargo and international scheduled flights.  

Inter-state and intra state travel without restrictions, too has been given a green signal, while confirming the fact that an e-pass or an e-permit for travel will no longer be a mandatory requirement to do so.  

The resumption of Metro train services across the country had been given a green signal by the MHA in an earlier announcement, under the condition that they must strictly adhere to the safety norms as laid down from time to time. 

The Ministry of Civil Aviation, through its minister Mr H S Puri has stated that although India has an established air bubble arrangement with 15 countries that include the UK, Canada, US, Maldives, Kenya, Iraq, Japan, Qatar, the UAE, France, Baharain Bhutan, Germany and Afghanistan, it has established a separate bilateral air bubble arrangement with Bhutan and Kenya for operating dedicated passenger flights between the two countries. This allows for a two way passenger flights from the originating countries and India.

Also as a part of the process of the Unlock 5 as per the new normal guidelines for various other activities like those of opening of cinema halls, multiplexes and theaters, which lie outside the containment zones, have been permitted but under certain restrictions like the limitation in the gathering of maximum number of people, social distancing, hand sanitization and temperature scans will be applicable. 

While easing the restrictions on public gatherings, in accordance with the requests and suggestions from the State/UT Governments, the Government of India has further permitted them the flexibility to allow such gatherings, hither to limited to 50 persons, to  beyond the limit of 100 persons, outside containment zones, after October 15, 2020,  subject to the conditions as specified below:

- Other than a ceiling of up to 200 persons in closed places a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity will be permitted.  

- The use of sanitizers, provision of thermal scanning, hand wash, maintaining of social distancing and wearing of masks shall be mandatory. 

Also Read: Future of Tourism After COVID-19

The states/UT governments have also been asked to formulate SOPs in order to prevent the spreading of the corona virus. 

It is envisaged that the tourism and the hospitality industry is likely to benefit from the relaxations being considered under the Lockdown 5, as the Government of India has taken into account the various suggestions as offered by the states/UT’s that are largely dependent on the tourism and hospitality industry to supplement their economy, but are yet to get the benefit of relaxtion of the lockdown restrictions.

In this direction the Union Government is actively considering the opening up of beaches, hotels and restaurants etc. thus it can be expected off the Government to come up with more relaxations in order to help such states to kick start their sagging economies. 

However this is not the be all and the end all. The process of unlock is an ever ongoing process of which the unlock 5 is just step in the direction of further easing up of the norms which are expected to give the desired push to the sagging economy all round in India. In this the Union Government is in a constant process of laying out and developing a suitable road map for the same, the final decision is still awaited.

Some more relaxations that will come into effect starting 15th October are as under:

It will be the responsibility of the State/UT Governments to formulate the SOP’s for the Business to Business (B2B) exhibitions, which will now be permitted to be held under the related guidelines as issued by the Department of Commerce.

It shall be the sole responsibility of the Ministry for sports and youth affairs to formulate the SOP’s for the opening of Swimming pools that are likely o be used for the training of sports persons etc.

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare will be responsible for the drawing up of the SOP’s for the opening of Entertainment parks and similar places, permitted by the Union Government under the process of Unlock 5.  

Opening up of the educational institutions, both, schools and higher education have been left at the discretion of the State/UT Governments, who will need to work on suitable SOP’s for the same and ensure safety of the students. 

Also Read: Things to do in India

About Goa

Goa is a very important state from the point of view of tourism. Lakhs of tourists, both from within and outside the country, flock here annually to enjoy its beaches and indulge in the related water sports as well as the Heritage.

The Chief Minister of Goa has been sending proposals to the Union Government for lifting the various restrictions associated to the lockdown days as tourism forms a major part of the states’ economy, although he is expecting the lockdown to carry on till the 15th of October where after it is expected that the major restrictions shall be removed permitting of the opening up of beaches and the related infrastructure, and kick start the tourism sector more over this would be ideal time for those honeymoones who have been to visit Goa for availing the Goa tour packages for couples.

In accordance with the unlock 4 the borders of Goa had been opened up for all the domestic travelers wanting to visit here on their Goa tour packages, although with some restrictions, but now with the issuance of fresh guidelines under the Unlock 5 process these restrictions are further relaxed.

The Chief Minister of Goa has reaffirmed that people wanting to visit Goa could do so without having to get tested for Covid-19 and undergoing quarantine, and also that those travelling to Goa would no longer be required to apply for or carry any e-passes or e-permits to visit here, or provide any negative report for Covid – 19.

The Bars and hotels within the state too shall be allowed to open up and serve their clients but with certain restrictions as advised by the Centre, regarding social distancing, wearing of masks and temperature checks. 

Currently Goa has thrown open almost 650 bars, hotels and restaurants for the visitors who wish to book their stay here on their holiday or vacation trips, bearing in mind the new normal guidelines. Meanwhile various others too are in line for opening up their services in accordance to the increase in the tourist flow. 

It is worthwhile to note that at present most of the hotels are offering impressive discounts to their customers in order to gain tourists to make up for the revenue losses over the lockdown period, making it easier for the tourists and honeymooners to avail the high end facilities at lower costs while travelling on their chosen Goa tour packages for couples.

Some of these hotels are also gearing up for the oncoming Indian Super League football tournament to held in November, while the Airport director Mr Gagan Malik has also assured regarding the safety in flying to Goa, which is absolute, and the airport there is fully geared to handle the tourist rush in terms of the safety etc.

He has further assured that starting from the entry point right up till the boarding the entire area has been duly sanitized and the number of flights is expected to increase, form the 21 per day presently, in number in accordance with an increase in the number of tourists visiting here also that form the existing 21 flights per day, as being catered for presently, it is expected to increase subsequently in accordance with the relative increase in the visitors to the state.

The Chief Minister of Goa Mr Sawant has also reiterated that most of the activities shall be opened up in accordance with the Unlock 5 procedure, with the necessary limitations as advised by the Union Government.   

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Himachal Pradesh

Another important state from the point of view of tourism, they too have come out with relaxations in most of the activities in accordance to the Unlock 5 procedure.

It has indicated that while the lockdown in certain areas or containment zones shall remain in effect till the 31st October and that in accordance with the Unlock 5 procedure no restriction will be imposed on inter or intra state travel, similar to Goa no passes or special permissions will be required to enter or exit the state and the interstate buses will operate as per the SOP’s laid down by the Transport Department as per the new travel-related guidelines.

No passenger travelling in any Taxi, bus or any other public means of transport shall be permitted to do so without wearing a proper mask.

An awareness campaign shall be conducted, by the concerned departments, among the students who will be attending schools as and when they reopen, regarding the safety procedures with regards to prevention of Covid-19.

A strict vigil over the gatherings at social, cultural, sports, educational, political, and religious programmes etc will be required to be maintained by the urban local bodies, in accordance with the new normal guidelines, which will ensure that a crowd of not more than 100 people gather at any of these functions.

The central government has further allowed for a gathering of a maximum of 200 people at functions related to award ceremonies etc. from the 15 October onwards.

Even in Himachal Pradesh, ever since the process of Unlock 5 has been announced by the Union Government, an increase in the inflow of tourists is being observed, resulting in buoyancy in the tourism and hospitality industry boding well for the economy of Himachal Prades, more over all those who have been waiting to have a go in Himachal Pradesh can now think of availing one of the best Himachal tour packages and enjoy their stay/ vacation there.

Hoteliers Association of Himachal Pradesh, which was hitherto skeptical regarding the opening of the hotels, bars and restaurants, is now looking forward to a bright future. Not only that the related travel companies too are very keenly looking forward to the 15th of October, for the state to provide further relaxations as far as the travel aspect is concerned, of course with the safety strictures that come with it.

The above are some of the Unlock 5 new guidelines relating to travel and other aspects in general which you will need to understand while planning a trip to Goa or Himachal Pradesh.