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Whatever Goa earns from tourism is nothing but gifts from God

The sudden collapse of British travel and leisure company Thomas Cook has hit Goa’s hospitality industry — five star hotels, small hotels, restaurants, transport and other trades. Thomas Cook-UK was one of the key agencies engaged in bringing charters to Goa. The president of Goa Small and Medium Hoteliers Association, Serafino Cotta has said that 200 small hotels are heading for a full-blown crisis even at the beginning of the tourist season as a result of lower than expected occupancy.

According to Cotta, room allocations by small hotels to UK tourists were generally higher. UK tourists have been reserving rooms for longer duration of upto two weeks. The small hoteliers have brought their predicament to the notice of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. The Chief Minister assured them that his government would intervene to have direct charter flights from Heathrow airport to Goa through Air India. He called up tourism officials in Delhi, who promised to deploy flights on the UK-Goa route to bring in tourists from the UK. It is not clear however to what extent this would make up for the losses owing to collapse of Thomas Cook-UK. With the tourist season due to begin in a few days, speedy action alone can salvage the situation.

Thomas Cook had brought around 35,000 UK tourists to the state during the last tourist season on chartered flights. With the firm going into bankruptcy, the tourists who had booked tours through it will not be able to come to the state unless they make alternative arrangements through other travel agencies. There is a high possibility of most British people who had booked their holidays through Thomas Cook not being able to get their refunds immediately. Just making arrangements for flying UK tourists would not be enough.

Tours have to be organised properly, for which tie-ups with service providers at destinations and other arrangements have to be made, which might take an uncertain period of time. As British tourists visit other destinations in India too, the central government could help by setting up tourism facilitation centres to bring tourists to Goa.

The tourism sector has evolved as a source of income for thousands of Goans as well as a good source of revenue to the state. The state government will also be a loser if it does not take steps to get international tourists bound to Goa who were affected by Thomas Cook-UK’s collapse to the state. True, the state government has a very limited role in making up the losses to the local businesses and correspondingly to the state exchequer suffered owing to the collapse of British travel agency. The state tourism department and GTDC and the stakeholders in the hospitality industry should take steps to make up for the losses by getting more foreign travellers by offering them incentives. The plan for drawing newer tourists have to be drawn at the earliest to attract as many tourists as possible in the shortest possible time.

The collapse of Thomas Cook-UK should serve the state and the country as a warning; they should have contingency plans for ensuring that tourism in not affected by such events in the future. There is need for having short-term, medium-term and long-term plans for promotion of tourism in the state. Goa has almost entirely banked on its natural endowments like beaches to get tourists. It can be said without exaggeration that whatever Goa has earned from tourism has been the gift of God.

Man has only damaged the natural endowments, reducing their value and worth and strength for sustenance. Goa has never seen a tourism minister who had a vision and perspective to transform the whole tourism landscape in Goa. Little values have been added to what Nature has given Goa. Dona Paula is an iconic spot but it has been in an inhospitable state for years. Although Old Goa is a must-see site, it must be said that the tourism department has not added value to Goa’s heritage that is abundant throughout the state. Do foreign and domestic tourists know of the Kadamba heritage? Has the tourism department thought of showcasing it to them? Does the department even know where the finds of the Kadamba heritage are?

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