Better infrastructure and attractions alone can make Goa a better tourist destination
The state government has notified the Goa tourism policy 2020 that promises to give ‘a new direction’ to tourism. The policy is going to provide the framework for the implementation of the Goa Tourism Master Plan over the next 25 years. According to the government claim, the master plan has been designed to bring about a planned and holistic development of the tourism sector. The tourism policy had been in the making for over two years. The government claims that it has incorporated into the policy the inputs and suggestions from various stakeholders in the tourism sector. The tourism policy aims to make Goa the most preferred round the year tourism destination and attract high-spending domestic tourists by 2024. The policy also envisages to turn Goa into a world-class international tourism destination by the year 2030. However, there are many ifs and buts. The government’s promise to develop Goa as a diversified tourist destination is an old one, the fulfilment of which has left much to be desired. Goa cannot be such a destination until it offers diversity such as cultural tourism, ecotourism, heritage tourism, nature tourism and entertainment tourism of high quality.
The government has been promising to make Goa one of the best tourist destinations by providing fast, reliable and affordable travel, and support services that will ensure a seamless experience for tourists in moving in and out of Goa. However, this is not the first time that the government has spoken about making Goa a world class destination. They have been making such promises for over two decades. The truth is that the state has overcapitalized its natural charm and not done much to create new infrastructure and attractions. Goa continues to attract tourists largely owing to its natural beauty. However, the absence of additional attractions that could have helped retain the tourists for a longer time has been forcing them to stay for only a short duration.
One of the key components of the Master Plan is the setting up of a Goa Tourism Board to guide its implementation. The tourism industry has given thumbs up to the government initiative to implement the Master Plan and the policy but has been surprised by the latest government action. Rather than constituting the promised board to take the master plan and policy forward, the government appears to be taking steps that run contrary to what is envisaged in them. About a week ago, the government appointed a consultant for promotion of Goa as a tourist destination. The tourism sector feels that the government decision to appoint an agency without the appointment of and approved by a Tourism Board can lead to superseding the powers of the board and cause conflict between the consultant and the board when it is constituted. It would be in the interest of giving a proper direction to the tourism sector that the board is constituted before a consultant is appointed. Else the implementation of the tourism policy and the master plan will start with confusing signals. The government must have its perspective clear on the development of Goa as a different kind of brand.
Though Goa has seen a rise in tourist arrivals in the last two decades or so, it has not been able to derive full benefit from the increase. Most of the decisions by the government with regard to development of tourism betray lack of due and proper consideration of all the factors involved. As a result during the implementation fault lines appear. The messy affairs of the tourism department are on account of the lack of adherence to the principle of due diligence. Goa needs an honest, transparent and efficient system to implement the tourism policy and master plan. Though the state opened Goa for tourists after the coronavirus lockdown it has done little to make their stay and travel comfortable. The current state of roads in Goa, including those leading to favourite tourist destinations, is of a poor quality that should drive away tourists rather than attracting them. Merely promoting Goa through consultants will not help the state attract tourists. Continuous and durable development of tourism infrastructure and attractions alone can help Goa rebrand itself.