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February 19, 2010

Increase in Russian mafia activity can affect tourism in Goa


19 February 2010

PTI, Panaji:

Russian mafia, which has so far no effect on Goa tourism, can trigger a slide down in state's tourism graph if it escalates in near future, a leading tourism body said today.

"The Russian mafia has not affected state's image yet but if it escalates than it will certainly affect the business," Ralf de Souza, president, Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) told reporters here responding to a question.

He said that the fights between two drug groups or similar instances will leave an impact on state's tourism graph.

The argument comes in the wake of Goa police fear that Russian mafia has spread its tentacles in the state.

TTAG, an umbrella organisation of tour operators in Goa, also expressed its anguish over beggars and hawkers menace on the state's coast.

"Train load of beggars arrive in the state little before the first charter flight arrives and disappear after last flight leaves the state," de Souza said hinting at organised begging syndicate.

"Some offer massage, some sell various items, there are beach boys who tell you about massage parlours. In the entire confusion of beggars and hawkers the criminals thrive," he alleged.

"Half of the problems will get over if we get rid of beggars and hawkers," the TTAG feels.

Even though begging is illegal, the activity happens right in the presence of police indicating the nexus, de Souza added.

The industry players have said that the proposed Goa tourism security organisation, a force comprising ex-servicemen, will deal with these issues.

"We suggest to the government that the force should be given policing powers so that it can work more effectively," de Souza added.

Goa government has accorded administrative approval for this force, which will aide existing lifeguards in manning the beaches. The state attracts around 24 lakh tourists, including four lakh foreigners.

De Souza said that even though there is decrease in the foreign travellers visiting the state, the percentage of domestic travellers is upped by 15%.

"But this will not increase the revenues as the domestic travellers are in Goa for three days while foreign visitors are on three weeks vacation," he explained.

"Goa earned revenue to the tune of Rs850 crore through various forms of tax generated from tourism activities. However, this year, the revenue will be dipped," de souza said refusing to quantify the decrease.