Panaji (Goa): The Central government is taking steps to reopen India to foreign tourists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday, adding that Goa, with its 100 percent coverage of the first Covid-19 vaccine dose, could play a big part in the revival of the country's tourism industry.
"The Central government is taking steps to welcome foreign tourists back. The government has taken a decision to give five lakh tourists free visas. Travel and tourism stakeholders will be given loans up to Rs 10 lakh with a 100 percent guarantee by the government.
"Tourist guides are being given the facility of taking a loan of up to Rs 1 lakh... In the future too, the Central government will be ready to help those who take the tourism sector forward," Modi said during a virtual interaction with health workers, ruling politicians, administrative officials and a cross section of people from Goa.
"India's vaccination drive is not a cover for health, but a cover for livelihood too. It is important that tourism destinations open as soon as possible. The 'Char Dham' yatra will begin soon in Uttarakhand.
"Goa's 100 percent vaccination will become important to revive the tourism sector. If hotel industry workers, taxi drivers, hawkers, shopkeepers are vaccinated, it will give peace of mind to the visiting tourists.
"Goa is a part of a select group of tourist destinations where people are vaccinated," the Prime Minister added.
While encouraging the revival of tourism, Modi however said that the pandemic should not be taken lightly.
"Domestic and international tourists can take pleasure in coming here... Numbers have come down, but we still cannot take this virus lightly. You will get as many tourists and travellers depending on how much importance you give to safety and hygiene."
Speaking to reporters after the virtual interaction with Modi, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that tourism and tourism-related activities were the key to the revival of the state's economy.
"When I say the economy should be revived, it is not just the casino industry, but the hotel industry too. We should refer to them (casinos) as tourism related activities. Sometimes people only mention casinos. We will resume all these activities as soon as possible after the government takes a decision," he said.