The state government recently approved the much delayed Goa Tourism Policy with an important provision of a Tourism Board and a Tourism Master plan which covers 25 years.
The creation of a Tourism Board has been the main focus of the policy but will it bring changes in functioning. Will it make tourism bereft of government control? Unlikely with the Tourism Minister at the helm of the Biard too
Nikhil Desai MD GTDC said the role of the new board has been clearly defined. Nikhil said “This board will decide what it is that needs to be done and then the implementation will be carried forward by the respective bodies. It will provide the roadmap based on research. The board will have representatives from the industry as well as from the government.” Well-meaning this might be, but doesn’t it beg the question “how is it different from what exists( supposedly) even now?
The industry he said was very dynamic and travel trends kept changing and this body would provide the direction. The board he said would be the first genuine attempt to get views from everyone and to consolidate a strategy. If a parking lot is required in the south, this body he said would decide and then give the green signal. He ended by saying the body would ensure there would no duplication of work and all the work would be driven by hard data. Then again why can’t the same thing be done the department?
A seasoned operator in the industry who did not want to be named said the adverse comments by members of the hotel industry with regards to the composition of the board held no water. He said the government had requested hoteliers belonging to the private sector to raise a certain amount of funds which would be matched by the government. The industry could not generate any funds and then to ask for the post of CEO or posts in the committee was a bit rich. A CEO from the private sector he said may not understand the regulations and would perhaps need an officer from the government to help him or her. Various models he felt could be worked out to ensure that the goals were achieved.
Menino D’Souza, Director Tourism Department said this board would provide the entire master plan. He said, “Earlier we had committees which used to recommend all projects and tours, events like Sunburn but now all this will be decided by one board”. Speaking about reservations by the hoteliers he said the funds provided by the state and the centre came with guidelines which could not be flouted. The private sector he said had enough of representation which would evolve in the future.
However the members of the private sector had their own viewpoints. Savio Messias past President of the TTAG felt the policy was good but it would be nice to know who would implement it. He said “To implement you require a strong Board of directors. In many countries like Spain, they did not have a tourism minister or dept but they had a very strong board consisting of professionals of the industry. They run the ministry and there is no political interference. In Kerala, the board is full of professionals and the marketing strategy is worked out by these professionals. Unfortunately, the Goa Board consists of more bureaucrats and government appointees”. He said the need of the hour was a board made up of professionals who would study and implement policies. He bemoaned the fact that the taxi association, shack owners and other groups had made demands to be part of the board and weren’t included.
Messias pointed out the GTDC board kept changing every few months because if the Minister or Chairman changed, a new team would be brought in. A professional CEO would be required and not a person transferred from a government department which was a regular occurrence. People, he said were going to travel marts on rotation. He said people abroad complained that negotiations sometimes died because the person they were talking to had moved out.
He ended by saying in the present situation it would be like any other government body and controlled by the cabinet resulting in tourism being destroyed.
Nilesh Shah President of TTAG said he welcomed the policy per se but it was not to the general liking of the industry. He said “Earlier it was industry-driven but now the government will have a major say. We need professional expertise to be part of the process. The CEO should be a member of the industry. Earlier we would have roadshows in the USA which is 22 hours away. Do you think anyone will come except for the odd person? We have to focus on areas where we have a market”. He ended by saying he was keeping his fingers crossed.
Aloo Gomes Pereira veteran charter operator said it was important for all sides to have a stake in the board. This he said would bring balance. He wondered if there was a vision to the entire exercise and said just making statements did not add to a policy.
The general sentiment was that they hoped there was greater interaction between all the bodies because as one of them put it the future o the industry as they knew it was at stake.