Team CafeThe President of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, Nilesh Shah in a media interaction with this newspaper said it was time the authorities cracked down on taxis not using taxi meters, since this was affecting tourism in Goa. He also said it was important Goa welcomes services like Ola-Uber and importantly needs to have better public transport services. He emphasized it was important for the state to ensure tourists were not cheated by taxi drivers driving without a meter.Taxi drivers had much to say about the viewpoints expressed by the President of the TTAG. Shrikant who is a driver in Mapusa said it was rather distressing when people expressed such sentiments without being sensitive to the situation being faced by taxi drivers. He said the government had ensured a very large percentage of the taxi drivers had meters in the cars but had done nothing to fight the problem of illegal taxis that were operating with impunity. He said many families were not above giving their cars out for rent and earning a pretty penny. Everyone he claimed was focused on blaming the taxi driver for all the problems faced by tourists. This is a subject which is very sensitive in the state and which generates strong emotions. Rocky, who heads a taxi union in Bambolim, expressed his frustration at the general state of affairs. He said “The government has made it mandatory for taxis to have meters otherwise licenses will be cancelled. You have to remember especially in the south; hotels pay the taxis for transporting the guests. The hotels have a package which they offer to the guests. So there is no question of paying taxi drivers”. Rocky went on to say that it was wrong to point fingers at taxi drivers for all the problems faced by tourists. He said “How many complaints have been filed against taxi drivers in Goa for the rape or murder of a tourist. Some hotels have their own cars which are used to transport guests. We sit outside and watch them go in and out. There is this talk of CSR right and it would be nice if all these businesses hired locals. The plans for a floating jetty in the south will destroy local businesses. The government has done nothing for the industry. Tell me how many public toilets have been built on the Panjim to Margao road. Instead of focusing on providing facilities to tourists they seemed to be focused on such issues.” Giten Solanki who recently visited Goa with his wife and stayed in the north said it was very frustrating to depend on the local transport system which would anyway not function after a certain time at night. He said “I hired a car at the airport and drove around for the duration of my stay. It saved me a lot of hassle. I learned from my experience in the past. It would be nice if the public transport could be available at a later hour. Some facility has to be available to help people travel around at a cheaper cost. This will help the economy.” An hotelier based in the north who did not want to come on record said this was a problem which would not be solved because it did not suit the interests of those involved. He said “If we want local people to be involved in the business, there has to be more services available which will hire locals. The public transport service shuts down too early and something needs to be done about that. If facilities are offered then people who are visitors or locals will travel and spend more. Today it is very expensive to travel at night between towns. These things have to be sorted out. And yes, Ola, Uber and Goa miles should be allowed to operate. They will anyway be using local resources. Someone has to take that call and decide. The current system is not working.” Another hotelier who was steaming and moiré than willing to talk unreservedly was Seraffin Cotta; President of the Medium and Small Hotels said it was unfortunate attention was being focused on the issue of taxi drivers when the bigger problem was of illegal tourism. Explaining himself he said “The rich tourists come in and stay in their five star rooms which is a small percentage of the business coming into Goa. The rest of them and by this I mean eighty seven percent is illegal. They don’t stay in hotels but in bungalows or flats owned by people living in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. The state does not earn anything from them. This has to be sorted. Speaking of transport, yes it is poor and it affects the tourists but importantly the locals too. It is ridiculous that every house owns at least two cars and a couple of bikes. This is because of the poor transport facilities in the state. But we need to sort out this problem of illegal tourism first.”
Forward looking steps need to be taken to sort out the problems afflicting the industry. The sooner it is done, the better will be the experience for locals and visitors interested in moving around the state.