New apprehensions have arisen that the already much-delayed Tourism Master Plan will be further held up as the evaluation committee on the progress of its preparation has only recently been reconstituted. In September 2016, Tourism Department had invited stakeholders to participate in consultative sessions on the interim document but even two years later the fate of the policy still hangs in balance. The announcement in the notification that the committee may hold public consultations, workshops, analyse, review suggestions, view presentations made by the consultant at every stage could delay further the finalisation of the plan, which is what stakeholders are apprehensive about.
Tourism stakeholders have already aired their views on the constitution of the committee, with a past president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa urging for the quick implementation of the plan and policy to avoid haphazard development which does not help anybody. It is unfortunate that despite relying so heavily on tourism for employment creation and government revenue, the State is unable to finalise the master plan for the industry within a time frame. The consultant to prepare the master plan was appointed in July 2014 and it was expected to be ready in less than ten months. Over four years later there is no master plan, only now a re-constituted committee to evaluate the progress.
As pointed out by one of the past presidents of the TTAG, a change of guard at the ministerial level or in the department head, leads to the belief that they can improve on the work of the previous incumbent, which only leads to a waste of time and money. The State cannot afford to waste either, so decisions in this regard have to be quick and firm.
Goa will enter another tourism season in less than a month without the policy being ready. The State needs a roadmap for the future growth of tourism, looking at the short and long term goals of the industry and how to achieve them, but also taking into account the environmental and social considerations, weighing these along with the economic gains before arriving at a decision. Two years ago when the draft had been placed in public domain, there had been a number of objections raised to certain proposals.
In this respect, the committee, as has been re-constituted, leans heavily on the pro-tourism side, as besides bureaucrats and the current and immediate past presidents of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, it has a chartered accountant, a tourism marketing expert and an economist on it. These are all tourism stakeholders. What the committee is lacking is the questioning voice, someone who will analyse the policy on a different yardstick which will lead to more meaningful discussions. Why is it that there is no environmentalist on the committee? Why is it that there is no representative of a body like the Centre for Responsible Tourism on the committee? Why is it that there is no social scientist on the committee?
The State has all too often seen that its policies have been found fault with by the people, this can be pre-empted if there is meaningful discussion when the ‘other’ voices are heard at the preparation stage of the policy itself. By appointing persons from outside the industry but who also have stakes in the progress of the State and interests in the functioning of the tourism industry, the government would also be conveying its open attitude to listening to all sections of society. With the committee only recently re-constituted and yet to meet, this lacunae can still be corrected. The policy when finally released should not be another cause for controversy.