Diversifying Tourism

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The state must focus on creating good infrastructure to be more attractive

AT last the state government on Wednesday approved the tourism master plan along with the  tourism policy 2020. The master plan had been in the making for over six years, though its rollout was promised within 38 weeks. The state government first talked about it in the Assembly in August 2014, but it lingered and lingered. Though a draft was ready three and half years after the announcement, the authorities failed to finalise it. There was an attempt by the government to push it in draft form but it was opposed in several quarters including the ruling camp and did not succeed. The draft was finally approved by the committee set up for the purpose some months ago and sent to the government for final clearance. The newly announced master plan and the policy aim at promoting hinterland tourism and other areas of tourism. The master plan envisages formation of a tourism board to advise the state on promotion tourism and development of tourism-related infrastructure.

Now that the tourism master plan and policy have been approved, the government should start the process for formation of the tourism promotion board without any delay. However, the people would expect that those appointed on the board have requisite qualification and expertise. It has been the  practice of the ministers and government to appoint their cronies on the boards of government-run corporations and other public entities and bodies rather than the professionals, as a result of which the corporations have been virtually rendered as white elephants. Tourism, which emerged as a key grosser for the state economy following the halting of mining, has taken a beating in recent years and needs to be revived and taken to greater heights. The task of reinventing the tourism sector and making it competitive needs professional handling and hence the job should be left to the experts. The government should play its role as facilitator in creation of the needed infrastructure to expand tourism activities and ensure that it was done as per the advice of the tourism promotion board.

Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar says the government planned to shift focus from beach tourism to eco, hinterland, adventure, education and sports tourism. However, rather than trying to promote all these activities at one go, the government should prioritise the segments that can easily be implemented. Trying to push all together at the same time might end in success in none. As it has been envisaged to take tourism to the hinterland, the government should create the necessary infrastructure in the interiors. The roads to interior Goa are narrow and may not be able to take additional load that will be put on them with promotion of tourism in the hinterland. The government must ensure that the local population does not face adverse impact of tourism-related activities nor do the tourists have any problem in accessing hinterland tourist facilities. It has to be noted that Goa had started a few adventure tourism activities but failed to sustain them for various reasons. The authorities need to plan tourism promotion strategies with the help of experts and execute them precisely for wider benefits to all.

There is an opportunity for the government to reinvent the Goa brand when it takes up promoting and developing tourism as envisaged in tourism master plan and policy. The state has plans to attract high-end tourists. High spending tourists, whose number is limited, will come only when the state has high quality tourism infrastructure, which Goa lacks at the moment. Setting up these facilities to cater to the needs of high spending tourists will take time and it would be foolish to drive away other tourists for wrong reasons. It is for the government to ensure that neither low spending tourists nor the high spending ones break the law. Strict implementation of the laws is a must. At the same time the government should take the measures it needs to take in terms of infrastructure development or improvement to make the state more attractive for tourists. As the state government faces a financial crunch, it will have to seek funds from the Centre to create better tourism infrastructure and add value to tourist attractions.