Tourism in India is facing its worst crisis ever, as not only are international flights still not normalised, but travel within the country is also yet to pick up. Against this background, the industry in Goa was expecting some hand holding from the government through budgetary allocation or in concessions that would promote travel. When this didn’t happen, there was a sense of resignation all around. The infrastructure boost, however, will help but it will be years from now. The question is of the present. What happens now?
It is a reality that there are hotels and restaurants in Goa that have still not opened the shutters that had been downed on March 22 last year. It is over ten months now, and the accumulated losses are massive. The State, in the Christmas to New Year week received a large number of tourists, and another big load arrived during the Republic Day holiday, as domestic tourists took an extended weekend with a day off in between Sunday and the Republic Day for a short holiday. But that is hardly enough to take the industry from the red to the green again. For that to occur, tourism has to open up again.
Having received short shrift in the Budget, Goa’s tourism stakeholders have come up with suggestions of their own, and these centre around how the Rs 330 crore Liberation Day grant to the State can be utilised to develop the sector in Goa. The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa proposes that 50 per cent of the Rs 300 crore be diverted for development of the tourism sector, while stating that if the money is used judiciously, the State could earn more revenue than is spent, and that the money be spent intelligently to help make Goa a world class destination. There can be lot of uses to the grants, but rather than general statements, the tourism stakeholders have to propose how exactly these can be used in developing the sector.
The government, however, may not be keen on using any amount from that grant for tourism development. The State has now sought a special financial package from the Centre to support and promote the industry. There is no fault in Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant’s reasoning that the pandemic has severely affected tourism and the State had not earned any tourism related revenue. Confident that the request will be met favourably, the government is planning to promote hinterland tourism to offer visitors another aspect of Goa. However, with the Centre having reduced the tourism outlay, would it be in favour of a special financial grant to Goa for tourism development? That too after the huge grant of Rs 300 for the 60th Liberation Year celebrations?
It is beyond debate that the State today depends enormously on tourism to make its economic wheels turn. Since the closure of mining, this industry has taken on the burden of being the life blood of the State economy. The pandemic brought these wheels to a grinding halt and a revival of the economy depends, a fair bit, on the tourism industry returning to a normal. In the current pandemic situation that has still not lifted, the challenges of this are many. For starters, the pace of footfalls is yet to pick up as not many people are comfortable travelling. Goa, despite the success of the International Film Festival on India, has met constraints in showing the rest of the country that it is ready for tourism.