With the unlock down the process in place, people are making beelines to their favourite hill stations in Himachal Pradesh, and others.
By Pradeep Chamaria
The new normal era is here after COVID–19 forced people indoors for more than eight weeks during the second wave of the pandemic era. That surely is a good sign for the travel industry that is hoping for a revival and coming out with new offers.
With the unlock down the process in place, people are making beelines to their favourite hill stations in Himachal Pradesh, and others. Recent images on various social media have been full of kilometer-long lines of vehicles waiting to enter Himachal Pradesh.
Many states like Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Odisha, and the union territory of Chandigarh have allowed vaccinated travelers to be exempt from the RT-PCR certificate requirement though subject to certain conditions.
The Central government is working on issuing a set of guidelines for vaccinated passengers to be exempt from RT-PCR requirements, but officials have mentioned that it will be up to the respective state governments to take a final decision regarding any exemptions to the passengers from these regulations.
The state tourism department is promoting short safe stays in consideration of public health and vacation needs. All hotels, restaurants, and other concerned departments have already been sanitised to ensure COVID protection.
Tourism is important for various states and they are wholeheartedly facilitating its revival, however, the officials are keeping public health ahead of all other aspects. The SOPs and safety guidelines have been issued to ensure social distancing and other hygiene practices in public places, monuments, and lodging facilities. Only strict abidance of these guidelines in post COVID scenario will ensure no further rise in the spread of the infection despite the increasing number of tourists.
Each state has its own guidelines. Rajasthan has allowed only tourists who are full vaccinated and carry digital vaccination certificate and have completed 28 days after the second dose. For traveling to Punjab and Chandigarh, the passengers need to be in possession of a vaccination certificate of at least one dose, which is over two weeks old. For Odisha, Meghalaya, and Nagaland, passengers need a final vaccination certificate.
Various industry operators and also airlines have welcomed these steps. Industry aviation stalwarts say that they are hopeful that with the reducing trend in COVID cases and the increased pace of vaccination, passenger confidence and airline traffic will gain further momentum by early July. On June 12, the number of daily passengers traveling on domestic flights exceeded the one lakh mark for the first time since May, indicating a gradual rise in passenger numbers.
Also after missing the entire summer season, people are eager for a getaway. It is a matter of delight that local tourists are returning in big numbers as the unlocking of tourism continues.
Reopening of monuments and museums
As India was hit by the surge in cases of COVID-19 during the second wave in April–May, the tourism ministry decided to close down all the 3,693 protected monuments, 50 museums, and various archaeological sites under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Now, as the country is seeing a steep flattening in the curve, Union Minister Prahlad Singh Patel tweeted, “Today the Union Tourism Ministry has given approval to duly open all the ASI monuments from June 16, 2021. Tourists can visit the monuments following necessary COVID-19 protocols. Best wishes to everyone.”
To visit the Taj Mahal and other centrally protected monuments, the entry tickets can only be booked online as offline booking facility will still be not available, the ASI said.
It is worth mentioning here that last year also, the monuments remained closed for more than 100 days during the nationwide lockdown because of the first wave of COVID. These were conditionally reopened from July 6 with the number of visitors being heavily curtailed and visitors were allowed only as per the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry.
(The author is a well-known travel writer. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)