29 Jan 2023  |   05:42am IST

Water tourism projects all at sea

Tourism has been the main source of revenue for Goa as the mining sector remains shut due to the Supreme Court ban. The Tourism department has been constantly trying to get in high-spending high-end tourists into Goa. For this, it tried to start some big ticket marine tourism projects like marinas, floatels, hot air balloon rides, yachts, cruise liner tourism and also hinterland tourism, which have not picked up as much as expected. PRATIK PARAB and KARSTEN MIRANDA find out what has gone wrong with these projects and their current status
Water tourism  projects all at sea

After the closure of mining in Goa, the revenue receipts have been spiralling southwards. The government of Goa had to continue to borrow loans and depend on central aid for basic needs. 

The situation has reached to an extent that the public debt of the State in the financial year 2021-22  was Rs 23,270.6 crore, which has increased by 12 percent and now makes up for 27 percent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).

The Goa government’s best bet to improve its earnings is tourism. It is the backbone of the Goan economy, with 40% of the population directly or indirectly dependent on it. The sector has shown strong growth with total tourist arrivals increasing from 2.3 million in 2005 to 7.8 million in 2017, an annual growth of nearly 11%. 

With improvement in tourism the state has also been indirectly benefiting through Excise and VAT on fuel revenue. The revenue earned on excise on liquor, VAT on petrol and GST earned during 2021-22 was Rs 928.9 crore.

The tourist mix is dominated by domestic tourists, that comprise nearly 89% of total tourist arrivals. The peak season of October to December sees nearly half of the annual tourist arrivals, putting immense stress on Goa's ecology, infrastructure and tourism assets.

As the tourism industry in Goa undergoes a sea change, the department is overwhelmed with the job of reorganising the operations of the various tourism projects that were taken up during the previous regime. 

While the Tourism Department has put in deterrents for illegal tourism practices it also has a herculean task to revive back and start new tourism avenues to achieve the goals set for the decade.

The Tourism Department however has been constantly trying to get in high spending, high-end tourists into Goa. But, earlier attempts of having marinas, floatels, and hot air balloon rides, yachts and cruise liner tourism and also high end hinterland tourism have not picked up as much as expected.

According to the Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte, the operations of these tourism projects were not organised in a manner in which they were expected to have gone a long way.

“The execution of these services was not done in a correct manner. They had to be organised and that is being done now,” Khaunte said. 

“We have an empowered committee under the Goa Tourism Board. Evaluation has been done to make sure whoever comes to Goa, gets a proper stepping stone and gets success in Goa,” Khaunte added.

“Whatever we are planning, we want it to take a good shape for longevity,” he said.

“We have prepared for a helipad and this month we will start Heli-tourism, rifle shooting is there in Pernem, boating will start in Morjim. A new tie-up for Hop-on Hop-off bus tour is being scribed and soon those services will start too. Several new services will begin within this year,” the Tourism 

Minister informed. 

He said that the government has formulated a policy for regulation of water sports in Goa to regulate and monitor the entire water sports activities in the State. There are notified guidelines for ensuring the smooth functioning of the queue system managed by the water sports associations on the beaches of Goa. 

“The Tourism Department has undertaken surprise checks to verify whether the operators are abiding by the water sports policy and queue system guidelines. Further action deemed fit shall follow after completing the hearing and proceedings under relevant sections of law. Action will be taken against illegal water sports activities at Baina and Bogmalo,” Khaunte said.

But there have been lot of teething problems in starting these eye-catching marine tourism related projects.

The Tourism Department has tried to put in force its plans to streamline water sport operators at the beaches by setting up a kiosk that is managed by Goa Electronic Limited (GEL) and all the customers would have to make payments here for various water sport activities. This would also include 

GST charges.

The South Goa Water Sports Operators Association has raised strong objections to the manner in which the Tourism Department is trying to implement the new system for customers at the beach.

The water sports operators have also questioned why the Tourism Department has roped in GEL only at Cavelossim beach and no other beach and why the rate card displayed at the GEL kiosk is present only at this beach and no other beach.  

They lamented that the rates are much higher as compared to what they charge with rate fixed by GEL. For example, the rate kept for parasailing is now at Rs 1,240 per customer through the new system while the old rate was at Rs 1,000.  The water sports operators questioned why the customers will want to pay more for the same facility and when they often want the price lowered.

The operators added that many times the customers want some flexibility in the pricing and they offer discounted rates but this may not happen anymore with GEL and they may lose business.

The South Goa Water Sport Operators pointed out that they have been running water sports on beaches since the beginning and  the tourism department played no role in investing in the infrastructure or supporting the local businessmen.

Roy Barretto, a water sports operator from Cavelossim, added that they have been following the court’s instructions for maintaining a queue system amongst themselves and this has been working fine.

Domingo Rodrigues, the President of their Association concurred and gave the example of how the water sports operators have been following a queue system at Colva through a counter manned by the staff, appointed by the water sport operators, which has been running smoothly.

Rodrigues also objected to GEL’s insistence of the water sport operators submitting their GST details, bank accounts, etc.

The water sport operators who said they have been paying their taxes and questioned how GEL is asking for such details. They added that they have completed legal formalities in getting the NOCs from the tourism department that basically allows them to operate.

The Association members had also expressed their fears that the State government has plans to hand over the water sports business to corporates, thereby endangering their livelihoods, by bringing in a jetty policy under the guise of ease of doing business.

“There could be clashes between the water sports businesses operated by traditional fishermen and the newcomers in the business, resulting in disturbance of public peace and communal harmony,” said Barretto.    

“The original Goans and people residing in the coastal area will be displaced. The traditional fisherman and local communities should have first right to the beach and the coastline,” said Pele Fernandes, a water sports operator from Benaulim.

He also criticised Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte for failing to stick to their assurance of taking the water sport operators into confidence and brushing aside their grievances despite their multiple follow ups with the Tourism department.


Iddhar Udhar