Goa must improve infrastructure to attract more foreign and domestic tourists
THE state tourism department has decided to concentrate on promoting Goa among domestic tourists. This is not a shift from focus on promoting Goa as a tourist destination overseas, because charter tourists and individual foreign travellers make a good number of tourist arrivals in the state. However, it shows a realization that Goa has to exploit the domestic tourist market more deeply. Since Goa emerged as a tourist destination the number of domestic and foreign tourists has been rising steadily. About 90 per cent tourists coming to the state are domestic. The tourism department has been spending crores of rupees on promoting Goa in foreign countries by sending delegations every year. These delegations have often included people who did not deserve to be there. There has never been a proper evaluation of the work done by agencies selected by the department for promoting Goa overseas. Foreign promotions have not yielded satisfactory results. International shows have therefore been a poor, if not bad investment; the return on investment has been highly unsatisfactory.
The focus on domestic tourists apparently comes in the wake of widespread criticism of the tourism department for wasting crores of rupees on foreign shows. However, the focus on attracting more domestic tourists has to be combined with some work. The department has to do a lot to improve the tourism infrastructure. The roads are pathetic; there are waste management problems; transport is not convenient in any part of Goa; and electricity is not without frequent outages. The department has not been able to finalise the tourism master plan even after seven years when it was taken up. The absence of a plan means tourism has been going on without a clear vision. There are no first or second or third priorities. Everything is adhoc.
Goa has for long been lucky in receiving tens of thousands of domestic and foreign tourists without any robust promotion and without good infrastructure. The beaches have brought tourists and the department is happy they continue to do that. But there comes a point when people get bored with the sameness of tourist sites. Goa has not been adding value to its tourist assets. On the contrary, its tourist assets lie in poor state or in limbo. Dona Paula, one of the greatest tourist attractions, has been full of odds and issues for tourists for a few years.
The state should host a Goa International Tourism Mart on a regular basis and invite international tourism and travel agencies to promote Goa, rather than sending delegations to ‘promote’ Goa in foreign countries. It is sorry to note that GITM was started with great fanfare and billed as yearly event on the lines of similar ones held globally but has been held irregularly. The tourism department should limit its role in facilitating interaction between local travel and hospitality agencies and delegations of foreign agencies so that they can coordinate to bring tourists to Goa. The overseas agencies are in a better position to market Goa as they can converse with their countrymen in local languages. Goa participation in global tourism promotion should be limited to a few prestigious events, which attract top marketing agents who could do better marketing for the state.
Now that the tourism department has decided to change its approach and focus on promoting Goa more in domestic market, it should evolve a sound strategy. Preparing world class promotional materials on tourist sites and facilities and hosting them on the department website and social media platforms would be more beneficial in promoting Goa than hosting shows as people can view them at their leisure than participating in the promotional events. For long stakeholders in the tourism sector have been complaining that they were left out of strategies to promote tourism. Tourism stakeholders have major role to play and should be taken on board while preparing strategies and planning for promotional events in domestic circles and overseas. It is necessary that the tourism department, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation and the stakeholders join hands to evolve newer strategies to take tourism in the state to a higher level and make Goa a world class tourist destination in the true sense.