The 2019-20 tourist season was the worst ever faced by beach shack operators on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to All Goa Traditional Beach Shack Owners Association, which has now demanded sops from the state government to tide over the bad spell.
President of the Association Manuel Cardozo said that waiving annual fees for the next season and releasing of dues owed to shack owners by the state Tourism Ministry could provide a lifeline to the 480 beach shack operators, who conduct their business along the coastal stretch, catering to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who have thronged to Goa every year.
"This year our business was very slow right from the very start.
Due to coronavirus the season has now wound up early. This year is the worst ever season for the shackowners in terms of business. Actually, not just shack owners, but for all tourism stakeholders," Cardozo said.
Since the mid-1970s, Goa's shacks have been synonymous with the state's beaches. The shacks are erected ahead of October, when Goa's formal tourism season begins, and are dismantled ahead of monsoons in May-end. Shacks offer a range of cuisines, brews and alcohol for tourists frequenting the beach, as well offer beach beds on hire for foreign tourists keen on a tan.
But the 2019-20 tourist season has been an exception.
With excessive rains leading to flood-like situations in most part of the state during the monsoons last year, to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, beach shacks have had to bear the brunt, along with the rest of the tourism and travel-related industries, with the number of tourists completely drying up.
Now, the shack owners Association has demanded some relief from the state government to tide over the crisis.
"They should provide us some relief. We have demanded a complete waiving of fees for the next season. This is the least," Cardozo said.
He also urged the state Tourism Ministry to release pending to begin with.
"The tourism ministry should at least release these dues, which in some cases are pending for three years," Cardozo said.
While the North Goa has 300 beach shacks, in South Goa has 180.
Several cabinet ministers, including Ports Minister Michael Lobo, have said that tourists would be allowed in Goa, only after the COVID-19 pandemic in the country subsides and the country reports zero COVID-19 cases.
Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar has also said, that in view of the total slump in tourism, Goa would be pitching for a compensation package from the Centre.