10 Apr 2017  |   10:36pm IST

What can the tourism industry expect from the new Govt

LYNDON ALVES

India has over 7000 kilometers of coastline and there’s no doubt, the most visited stretch of this coastline remainsthe 105 kilometers that form the beaches of Goa.

I may not be an authority on tourism, but having been an avid traveler, a tourist and a tour operator in Goa since the early 90’s I’ve realized, it doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the growth of tourism is not in sync between the private and state players. Though the various governments showcase making numerous efforts, it’s the lack of knowledge, determination and self interest that takes it toll on the productivity. 

Tourism has been the lifeline of the State and Goa’s biggest brand. And this can be given a lifeline status only if the government backs up the stakeholders on the road to progress. Here are a few thoughts (my own and personal) penned down on steps the new government could take to give Goa the national and global status it rightly deserves:

The new government, post all the controversy on attaining power in the State, now needs to prove to the people that they’re the best mediator between the State and the Central government, ensuring that that national policies, based on the general national populace, cannot necessarily be imposed on this tiny State that would adversely affect its tourism and locals alike. Goa has always stood out as peaceful and unique and continues to do so with its easy going culture and population. Laws like the 10 pm sound timeline and highway bar closures would do more bad to the State and its people than good. It’s for the State government to stick its head out and push for sensible regulation that may not be in line with the rest of this vast and varied country and rightly so.

On Education:  For starters tap the source at the root and include tourism as an optional subject in our school’s syllabus, to enable filter the right education and attitude, down to grass-root levels. With commercialization, the traditional pride of Goan hospitality should not fade away. The trick is keeping culture and consumerism hand in hand for a stable and productive growth. Education would provide the easiest and fastest route to improve the quality of service, hygiene, and most importantly attitude so as to live up to the slogan of “Atithi devo Bhavha”

Political involvement: If the government really wants to participate in this trade, then do it rightly and don’t use the tourism players, as a revenue module other than taxes. We need a good ministry and if political compulsions and obligations come in the way, this has to be balanced with a good bureaucracy and an independent tourism board. Tourism being the brand ambassador of the State, should be personally overlooked by our CM, who’s known to be analytical, forward thinking and progressive.

On Cultural Tourism: There’s a misconception on this term in the first place. Cultural tourism is not just about tribal folklore and hinterlands. The culture of Goa is and has always been “Eat, drink, and be merry” and this is what made Goa known in the first place, both in our country and internationally. Our own ministers in the new government have strongly advocated that Goa’s culture is one that has alcohol as an integral part of it. Tourists that travel purely for heritage and culture form a miniscule segment of the global tourism market and they will find their way to their haunt. Pushing individual interpretations of cultural tourism down the throats of domestic or international tourists will only be a huge waste of people’s money, instead of spending this on visibility and tourism infrastructure.Yes, by all means promote hinterland and tribal culture but sensibly and not using the tax payer’s money to prove a point. Our culture is very debatable and definitely does not stand for people being fully dressed up to go for a swim. Goa did get a lot of its fame from the hippies who, in the nude, discovered most of todays famous beach destinations worldwide.

On Water Tourism: A lot of water has flowed under the bridge with little visible development. Its shameful that Goa which was once a famous stop on the route of ancient sailors is today nowhere on the international boating routes. We do not even have enough infrastructure to attract the multitude of luxury yachts from neighboring Mumbai. 

On Festival Tourism: We’ve successfully managed to throw out two of the country’s largest music festivals and amongst Goa’s biggest attractions. The irony is no one really knows the reason why this has happened (nor does anyone seem bothered) and the biggest loss has been to the State and its reputation as the country’s finest venue for global music gatherings. Let’s pray sense prevails with the new government and we regain this festive culture.

On support from the local authorities and police: Simplify is the word. The single window permission for events and festivals is anything but a single window, it’s an additional window to the regular windows like police, fire department, sound permission, CRZ etc. There exists no system in the State for regulated costs of police that often charge exorbitant rates without any prior intimation, putting the organizers to a loss.

The need of the hour is a tourism board, this has been discussed for years but at least the present CM did give this petition a serious ear and this is what would give Goa the right booster and professional approach to take it to the international rankings it rightly deserves.



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