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4th September 2016
Department of Tourism
Government of Goa,
Subject: Goa Tourism Master Plan and Policy, 2016:
Annihilation of people and Sale of a state
4th September 2016
On 26th April 2016, key newspapers reported that the Department of Tourism, Government of Goa had invited views and suggestions from various stakeholders on its proposed 3-Module Tourism Master Plan and Policy. This letter is to share with you the views of the Centre for Responsible Tourism* and EQUATIONS** on this document.
Process: The norm these days is to hire international consultants for the preparation of master plans and polices, who have a limited knowledge of the local context and issues. While in Module 1 & 2 they highlight the process of undertaking the preparation of the Master Plan, this information is not mentioned in Module 3. The preparation of this document should have been a bottom up approach, where extensive interactions with people living in and around tourism destinations as well as the people who are part of the unorganised tourism sector (as that is where the largest number of employment is) should have taken place. The voices of these people is completely missing.
The Interim Master Plan and Tourism Policy was placed on the website on 24th August, 2016 giving the public only 10 days to respond. This is offering mere lip service to a process that should be more democratic. The Government by this move wishes to do away with a true engagement on the issue of tourism planning and development in Goa.
The intent of developing a Master plan is different from that of a Policy. A policy is a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by the agency responsible for its implementation, while a master plan is a comprehensive plan of action. In an attempt to address both, the consultants have fallen short on both aspects. For instance the master plan should have detailed aspects like who is going to be involved and what will be the process of implementation.
Module 1: Review of current tourism scenario in Goa
1.1 talks about green norms, sustainable and responsible tourism. However, the methodology is limited to looking at certification and 2 case studies.
1.2 talks of conducting socio-economic and environment impact of the tourism industry. This section pretends to talk on the issue of impacts but does not delve deeper into the cause and effect of these impacts, many of which can be directly attributed to tourism. The method used for this was to do an analysis of Goa Tourism – what this analysis entailed is vague. Discussions were conducted with domestic and international trade consultants and data from reports. No attempt to engage those affected and impacted by tourism. The methodology however is seriously lacking. This also indicates that while KPMG and T&L might be equipped in the assessing and planning for the business side of tourism, they do not have the relevant expertise or perspective to carry out such an exercise. The decision of the Department of Tourism, Goa regarding this is therefore questionable.
Module 2: Gap analysis
While the industry linked aspects like infrastructure, marketing – promotion and opportunities for tourism assessed in Module 1 find space in Module 2, gaps that might have been identified in 1.1 and 1.2 find no space in the section on Gap Analysis, which also serves as the base for the Master Plan. For instance, the aspect of sustainability (economic, social, environmental through local governance), which has been identified as a strategy and one that is key to how Goa will be seen even in 2030, finds only a tokenistic mention going further. Therefore, the RFP, which defines the contours of the Master Plan is inherently lacking of concern for communities, especially those who are impacted and affected by tourism. The reflection of this is also seen in Module 3, where the main strategy is defined as keeping the tourist at the centre.
What is stated as a shared vision is not really a vision but to be read more as focus areas that have been identified. A vision statement is the ability to think or plan the future with imagination or wisdom, which is missing.
Module 2 talks of community tourism but all they say in that is how tourists would be welcomed by the communities. I think there is a reason they are not calling it Community Based Tourism – as there is no attempt to base it in the community, but to access the community in the same manner as to access the coast – basically the community is nothing but a tourism product.
Marketing & Branding: There are many references to how Goa should be pitched as a tourism destination – place for a good time, beach party spot, susegad lifestyle; however is this the way the local communities see and would want to describe the Goan culture? These are the images that the local communities have been fighting against for a long time – to move away more the sun, sand, sex image that Goa has become famous for. These images also create a false impression in the mind of the tourists about the nature of the Goans which has also resulted in some of the negative impacts faced by them.
Role of the State as has been defined in the document (state interventions for tourism development) is extremely myopic as they would be responsible for the development and up gradation of infrastructure, of developing new tourism assets and that of marketing and promotion. However what is missing are the other roles which are as crucial for the Department of Tourism to take on – planning, regulation, coordination, research, protection (ensuring ethical and non-exploitative tourism), education and awareness and strengthening local institutions and local capacities. DoT cannot limit itself to developing guidelines. Also other planning & regulatory tools like conducting research on carrying capacities and tourism impact assessments (and not limited to environmental impact assessments), needs to be factored in.
Module 3: Preparation of Goa’s Tourism Master Plan and Policy
Details the different tourism products, each of which needs to be planned, carefully taking into consideration the issues and impacts of each form. Proposals for certain kinds of tourism development such as high-end music venue paired with luxury lifestyle, water front promenades, seaplanes, gaming districts, mass events, casinos, golf courses, cruises, are extremely problematic and there are numerous studies that illustrate the ill-effects of this kind of tourism development. The strategy of the flagship programme and quick wins might be a good marketing gimmick but the intense nature of engaging with each of these is by no way quick. In a move, to show results in a short duration of time, the damage that this kind of development will cause will be irreversible. It is also grossly inadequate and arrogant to assume that by merely identifying a product and location, the development of tourism will take place, without taking into confidence the local self-governing institutions, whose have the power to plan and decide the development of their area.
Goa’s current promotion byline is Goa 365 days on a holiday. The draft plan goes a step further to propose that it is not just about Goa being open to tourists 365 days a year but that the entire state of Goa be opened up. The Government of Goa has decided to sell the state, forgetting there are people living in the state. Without taking into account the learnings of what has happened on the coast or from other places within the country, the government plans to open up the state for tourism.
This Master Plan and Tourism policy document is blatant in its process and content and in its current form will achieve little. It appears that the institutions who wrote the master plan, are basically wishing away the people and are only interested in the coast and the land and that too, only to exploit it. The protests that we are witness to in relation to tourism in Goa, will only escalate unless due consideration is given to the problems at hand. It is for the above stated reasons that we the undersigned reject this Master Plan and Tourism Policy, asking the Department of Tourism to re-initiate this entire process, taking into consideration the concerns that have been raised.
Fr. Maverick Fernandes Ms. Aditi Chanchani
Centre for Responsible Tourism EQUATIONS
Centre for Responsible Tourism began in 2007. The Centre seeks to be the rallying base for uniting citizens and stakeholders in tourism in Goa to foster patterns of responsible tourism. It seeks to respond to the fallouts of tourism and reverse the impacts in ways that would bring a human face to tourism and result in the benefits of tourism reaching local communities. CRT studies how tourism planning and management can be effectively brought under community stewardship and management.
EQUATIONS set up in 1985, is a research, campaign and advocacy organisation. We study the social, cultural, economic and environmental impact of tourism on local communities. We believe that tourism should be non-exploitative, equitable and sustainable. A question that has been central to our work and directs much of it is 'Who Really Benefits from Tourism?' (www.equiatbletourism.org).