With a month to kickstart Goa’s tourism season, the tourism department will consult the government on renewing licences of beach shacks.
Shacks are permitted to commence operations post monsoon, coinciding with charter arrivals. However, the department is yet to take a call due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A senior tourism official said though restaurants have been allowed to open, they are not permitted to serve liquor. “Shacks serve liquor, so we will have to consult the government whether shacks can be opened,” said tourism director Menino D’Souza.
Nearly 350 beach shacks are alloted licences to operate during the tourist season. Also, over 400 shacks are erected in private properties beyond the coastline during this period. While beach shacks come under the domain of the tourism department, private shacks are erected with the approval of Goa State Coastal Zone Management Authority.
Due to the outbreak, tourism stakeholders are uncertain about commencing operations. D’Souza said that tourists will start arriving in big numbers only when they are feel confident and secure.
Though Goa saw fewer Covid cases at the onset of the pandemic, the numbers have been rising quickly since June, while the July-August period saw the virus making inroads in most parts of the state. Cases have been detected in areas that had no or relatively few cases a month ago.
President of the Shack Owners’ Welfare Society (SOWS), Cruz Cardozo said that they will have to assess the Covid situation before commencing operations. He said that they will meet chief minister Pramod Sawant and tourism minister Manohar Ajgaonkar with a request for concession in fees. “Though we barely operated for three months during the last season, yet we paid all the fees. Our members have demanded a concession in fees this time,” he said.
SOWS will hold a meeting in this regard before meeting Sawant and Ajgaonkar, he said, adding that though they have expressed willingness to start shacks, the Covid scenario remains critical.
“There have to be adequate footfalls when we start operations,” he said.
A beach shack is a temporary structure set up with wooden material which has to be dismantled at the end of the season, that is latest by May 31. However, last season, all operators were forced to shut down at least two months before the season could end due to the pandemic.
Cardozo said that in addition to fees paid to the government towards licences, etc, the average cost of erecting a shack ranges between Rs 2 and 3 lakh. Most staff working at shacks in various capacities also arrive from other states.