Herald: Waking up late to a flawed tourism master plan

Waking up late to a flawed tourism master plan

17 Jan 2019 04:05am IST
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17 Jan 2019 04:05am IST

During a period when the State is reeling under a drop in tourist footfalls, and the industry and government are playing the blame game for the dwindling number of tourists. The meeting called by the Tourism Minister to discuss the proposed Tourism Master Plan brought just four MLAs out of 38 to the meeting room. Not a single Opposition MLA was present. Of the four MLAs present, three were from the Bharatiya Janata Party and one from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. This is an indication of just how seriously the election polity in this State takes issues on which depends the bread and butter of a huge segment of the population, and also provides a substantial amount to the State Treasury. 

Interestingly, the four MLAs from the ruling combine were critical of the draft plan, pointing out to flaws in it and even seeking that the implementation of the policy be kept on hold till the defects in the sector are ironed out. The master plan has already been long delayed, but given the amount of opposition that the plan has generated in the State, there is now no need to rush with it and get it implemented. This plan will remain in force for the coming decades, and so has to be acceptable to all sections – the stakeholders and also others. 

The responses coming from the people and interested groups had been critical of the draft plan, now the MLAs have called it a failure. It is rare when the people and the politicians speak in the same voice, but here all four MLAs who attended the presentation spoke in unanimity with each other and also with the people of the State who believe that this draft plan will not work to the benefit of Goa, but against it. That this happened on the day the State was observing the 52nd anniversary of the Opinion Poll, augurs well for the future of the State and for politician-people partnership.

What was echoed at the meeting was the quality of tourists. While Calangute MLA Michael Lobo used strong words to bring this out saying, “We are not attracting the kind of tourists Goa deserves. All the nuisance-creating visitors like those involved in drugs, prostitution, littering and other unlawful activities should be slapped a fine and sent to jail, only then quality tourists will be encouraged to visit the State.” His colleague, Aldona MLA Glenn Ticlo said, “We are only focusing on the quantum and not the quality of tourists. We want well behaved, well mannered tourists. Unless these issues are resolved, Goa’s tourism will get into its worst phase.”

There can be no arguments on this, especially following the various instances of tourists cooking and eating on the roadside, but pray. Can the MLAs or the government enlighten the people as to what measures have been taken over the years to attract quality tourists rather than opening wide the doors to the ‘nuisance-creating visitors’? There has been a perceptible change in the quality of tourist over the past years. Goa didn’t need to wake up so late to this and scramble to find solutions after the situation deteriorated to the extent that it has become unacceptable. Ironically, this was being debated at the same time that fresh pictures of tourists cooking in the open at Calangute were being spread through the social media.

With the draft tourism master plan having been rejected by some social organisations, and now MLAs also pointing out to defects in it, the Government has to relook the document, even redraft it, if necessary. The importance of the industry to the Goan economy cannot be overlooked and a meeting of all stakeholders across the table could possibly be the best to arrive at an understanding of what would be best for the State in this sector.

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