Tourism has witnessed phenomenal growth over the last four decades and emerged as a key sector of the Goan economy. From 7.77 lakh tourists, including 92,000-odd foreigners in 1985, the number of tourists coming to the state rose to 63.3 lakh in 2016, including 6.8 lakh foreigners – a rise of nearly eight times. The growth has been goaded by promotions in potential international markets and other government initiatives. Factors like moderate climate and fluid green landscapes, buildings with European influences, beautiful beaches and the virtues of tolerance and conviviality among Goans have made Goa a global tourist destination. In recent years casinos have given a new dimension to nightlife, complementing the state’s tourism portfolio. These factors are combined with good infrastructure and low cost options in domestic and international flights. While Goa has come a long way to emerge as a top-notch tourist destination it is time for the state government to add newer dimensions to the tourism portfolio to make it more attractive to tourists.
In the initial years Goa was known only as a beach destination for all it could showcase was pristine beaches all along its coast. But over the years a number of tourist attractions have been added and physical infrastructure has improved. The government’s efforts in making Goa a popular tourist destination have been complemented by those of the tourism industry with investments to set up thousands of rooms to accommodate tourists. Goa has over the years emerged also as a top wedding destination. The hospitality industry has been a big beneficiary of this trend. Changes in the government of India policy to grant e-visa and visa on arrival and easy international air connectivity has also helped in roping in foreign tourists. Over the past several years tourists have been coming to the state round the year. Goa has also benefitted from fall in room rates over the years.
While availability of accommodation, easy connectivity and other factors have helped the state attract larger and larger number of tourists, it is not unusual to hear guests complain of being fleeced by taxi operators. The taxi issue needs to be resolved to the satisfaction of all as it can damage the state’s reputation as a tourist destination. The government has been dithering on the issue for too long. Then there have been incidents of sexual attacks on tourists, especially foreigners and murder of a few; these incidents are blots on the state’s image as a top class and safe tourist destination. Policing must improve to warn and protect tourists. At the same time, the government should see that the cases relating to sexual and other physical violence against tourists are expedited to instill confidence among tourists and deter violence. On the other hand, there have been cases of foreign tourists indulging in drug peddling and consumption. In many cases, foreigners use loopholes in the government laws to misuse them to stay on illegally and to trade in narcotics as it is a lucrative business. In order to make Goa a safe family destination, the government must make the police act firmly against drug peddlers and consumers. Recently, the police have mounted an attack on peddlers and consumers. Let us hope it is sustained in order to get results.
Even as the number of domestic and international tourist arrivals has been increasing every year, Goa cannot just take it complacently. There is serious competition from domestic and international destinations to Goa. The state needs to improve and add infrastructure to facilitate movement of tourists. It should provide for newer activities in the tourism calendar. Better planning of events to be hosted together with better promotion in domestic and foreign markets will help bring in larger number of tourists. It is time that the state focuses on attracting high class tourists. To attract them Goa will have to add better facilities like golf courses. The master plan for tourism development has been in the making for the last six years and there is no sign of it getting ready anytime soon. The authorities need to give a clear shape to the tourism sector given its importance in revenue generation and employment. Goa can also add activities like electronic dance and music festivals as routines and promote event tourism in a big way to benefit from the emerging markets in the sector. Development of newer and newer attractions alone can help Goa get tourists come back to the state and bring in first-time tourists. The world’s most popular tourist destinations capitalize on everything possible in order to make the tourist visit maximally entertaining. Goa must take that route and not just depend on God-given assets.