A YEAR after the government ‘forced’ the two electronic, dance and music (EDM) festivals, Sunburn and Supersonic, out of the state citing various reasons the new Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar has announced that Goa will soon be developed as a music festival destination. The state for years was host to the two mega EDMs, billed to be biggest such events in whole of Asia, till the government changed its policy last year. Among the reasons for ‘disallowing’ the mega musical events, held during peak tourist season, were complaints from local residents about traffic jams and noise. What made the government change its decision? Was it loss of revenue due to ‘exit’ of the two EDM events? Are certain lobbies behind it? The Tourism Minister ought to come clean on the issue.
There is no harm in adding new avenues to attract tourists but to revive EDMs the government needs to address the concerns on infrastructure and daily lives of the Goans. If the two events were to be held simultaneously, the government should create adequate infrastructure to ensure that the locals are not inconvenienced. The organisers of the EDMs owe the government a lot of money: recovery of dues must be made before allowing them. Azgaonkar has said that the government would identify special zones to conduct late night music festivals which will not cause inconvenience to the locals. Does Goa have infrastructure to hold such events other than the coastal areas? Pushing these mega events to hinterland would mean that additional infrastructure has to be created and this could take time not only for planning but also putting it together. Besides, what is the guarantee that the people in the hinterland would not object to the events as they would disrupt their lives? As there is possibility of opposition from the people living in the hinterland the best solution would be to allow hosting of such events closer to the Western Ghats but there too the wildlife would be disturbed leading to opposition from nature lovers. The government would surely have a task at hand in finding places where EDMs or other musical events could be held.
There is considerable pressure on the infrastructure already due to tourism and tourism-related events. It would be better to space them out. The government has to draw a calendar of events for the year and allow the events to take place accordingly, rather than allowing organizers to have a direct say on holding of the events. Organising of events should not be allowed at the cost of interests of local people just because they contribute revenue to the state exchequer. Spacing out will help in better planning and management of events as well as traffic. The state has been attracting around six million tourists and the existing infrastructure, especially in the coastal areas, has been found to be too inadequate to handle the pressure. As vigorous promotion of Goa as a music festival destination would attract more tourists the state authorities need to ensure that there was adequate infrastructure to handle higher number of visitors in particular times. In the absence of adequate infrastructure in the hinterland, the government would have to permit the organizers of music events to host them in the coastal areas.
The idea of making Goa a musical festival destination is good and would serve as additional attraction for tourists. However, such events should be held at different places on different dates. As the idea is to promote music, music lovers would not mind reaching any place where it is held; the only thing they would expect from the state government is that there were adequate facilities at the sites. The sites should have facilities and amenities like accommodation, restaurants and other forms of recreation to hold back tourists for longer time so as to create business for local entrepreneurs. To develop Goa into top class music festival destination the authorities would have to begin identifying potential sites immediately, especially in the hinterland, and set the ball rolling for developing them. While doing so the government should seek the co-operation of the local population through panchayats and trade associations and make them partners in tourism promotion and income from the trade. Location of such events in the hinterland would help the government carry out better planning and keep the events within the limits of the law. The sites should have good facilities to retain tourists for longer period. Perhaps the idea of music festival destination can be used by the government to reduce the pressure on the coastal areas and expand and diversify its tourism profile in the hinterland.