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Tourism policy needs to be overhauled
February 15, 2010

Tourism policy needs to be overhauled


15 February 2010

NT Network, Panaji:

Buoyed by the ‘massive’ response from tourists, both domestic and foreign, the then state government headed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Mr Manohar Parrikar had announced tourism policy for the state way back in 2001 to give a distinct direction to the tourism sector and to reap rich dividends for the future.

The government had started implementing the policy with a bang but somehow the drive lost the steam soon after and only a part of the policy was implemented and rest perhaps has been forgotten as a result of which the tourism industry appeared to be facing “uncertain” times.

The tourism industry (private operators) had welcomed the policy with open arms and expected the government to implement it so that they could also benefit from the proposals, especially the tax benefits, rationalisation of tax structure etc from it, which were not implemented in “true” spirit.

The tourism director, Mr Swapnil Naik said that major proposals of the policy remained unimplemented and that the policy as a whole has become sort of obsolete and needs to be revamped to not only give a major boost to the tourism sector but also to help the private sector that has contributed in a big way to the sector by setting up infrastructure.

Mr Naik also said that many newer things/ideas, which were not envisaged when the policy was drafted, have been developed over the years and the state’s policy should be as per the demands of the changing times so that the tourists get the best deal while the tourism industry also benefits from the policy, keeping the unscrupulous operators at bay.

He said that in the revamped policy the government is likely to lay focus on ecotourism, waterways, hinterland tourism, cultural and heritage tourism, etc.

“With the government already initiating various infrastructure projects like the Panaji-Vasco sea link, 4-6 laning of the two major highways in the state besides broadening of other state roads, it would provide easy access to tourists who would want to venture into the hinterland and also help the industry captains to set up facilities there,” he said.

The government while announcing the policy had envisaged to raise the quality of infrastructure, which, it felt, was a foundation for the sustainable growth of tourism and would accelerate benefits to the people of the state, but despite nine years having passed nothing tangible appeared to have been done by the state authorities.

Interestingly, most officials in the tourism department were ignorant of the fact that the policy was declared way back in 2001 and told ‘The Navhind Times’ that it came into existence just three years ago.

The government’s approach and strategy was to retain the traditional image of Goa as a prime beach destination and diversify to ecotourism, hinterland development (villages), cultural heritage tourism, business tourism, adventure tourism and indigenous healthcare system besides adding value to other tourism-related products.

While touch-screen kiosks were set up at different places for the benefit of the tourists arriving in the state, other decisions to add technological advances like computerisation of the department,  equipment, Internet, development of CD-ROMs etc failed to be added to give impetus to the tourism sector.

Mr Charles Bonifacio, former president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, said the policy helped the industry in more ways than in one but the main help that the industry had expected from the government in the form of reduction/rationalisation of taxes has somehow been delayed, which in turn has hurt the private operators. He also said that infrastructure, especially in the coastal areas, has to be improved.

Another official of the TTAG said the government has been spending crores of rupees on “marketing” Goa abroad ever since the policy was announced but has failed to rope in quality tourists. He observed that the state should focus on getting quality tourists who could understand the state’s cultural and social ethos and who do not try to create problems.