Tourism agencies win praise for evacuation of foreigners

The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), Kerala Tourism and District Tourism Promotion Councils (DTPCs) have won praise from stranded tourists and various sectors in the tourism industry for hosting foreign tourists stranded in the State and making arrangements for their return in chartered aircraft.

Most of those stranded across the State were from Europe, including a few who had tested positive for COVID-19 and had since recovered fully. The KTDC’s hotels hosted those who were stranded and a few who were discharged from hospitals post recovery, as directed by the government. Kerala Tourism bore most of their expenses, including those of food and accommodation.

As many as 105 French nationals, who were held up due to the pandemic-related lockdown, left for Paris on Saturday in a chartered Air India aircraft, following the coordinated efforts of Kerala Tourism and the Embassy of France in India.

On Tuesday, a batch of 232 European nationals, a bulk of them from Germany, was evacuated. Tourists from Germany, the U.K. and France constitute a bulk of foreign tourist arrivals in Kerala.

“We adhered to all safety norms that were prescribed by the government while hosting a few of them on our property as part of their mandatory quarantine,” said Alex Joshua, general manager of KTDC-owned Bolghatty Island Hotel and Resort.

Staff members were directed to adhere to special precautions such as wearing masks and gloves, said the hotel’s assistant manager Manoj Kumar K.

A few tourists are staying back at the hotel for fear of returning to Europe which has been severely hit by the pandemic.

The heritage hotel has also been taking care of the needs of a dozen seafarers from other nations who arrived here in as many yachts that have been berthed at the marina that abuts the property. They too were caught in the lockdown and many are in quarantine in their yachts. The hotel has been helping them to procure groceries, water and other essential items.

The guests who were evacuated on Tuesday from Thiruvananthapuram and on Saturday from Kochi included a three-year-old boy and many elderly people. While most of them are holidaymakers, some of them had come to Kerala for Ayurvedic treatment. The Ernakulam DTPC made arrangements for their transportation from different places to the airport.

The travel formalities of the passengers, including the scrutiny of documents, were overseen by Catherine Suard, Consul General of France at Puducherry. “We deeply appreciate the sincere efforts of Kerala Tourism, despite the lockdown constraints, in quickly and successfully arranging the homeward journey of the stranded people from France and other countries,” she said.

“We were able to make all arrangements as quickly as possible following a request of the French government. Similar requests from other countries including the U.K., are being seriously considered by the government,” said Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran.

Rani George, Secretary of Kerala Tourism, said the tourists who were asymptomatic and had completed 14 days in isolation in Kerala, or tested negative for COVID-19 were considered for the return journey.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 4:49:31 AM |

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