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TTAG blames state govt for decline in tourist footfalls

PANAJI: Squarely blaming the state government for the lower tourist footfalls, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) Friday said that 2018-19 season is the worst that the industry has seen so far.

According to the representative body, room occupancy in the current season dropped drastically during the 2018 year-end and on the night of December 31, with hotels in North Goa reporting occupancy as low as between 30 per cent and 60 per cent. Most of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) hotels also faced low occupancy on the peak day of the season.

From figures gathered from the immigration department at the airport, the TTAG has estimated a decrease in foreign tourist arrivals by 30 per cent in the current year. International tourists are keeping away from the state, as it has become a costly destination, claimed the body.

“The decline has been going on for a few years but this season has been the last straw,” said Savio Messias, president of TTAG.

Members of the TTAG are holding “lack of direction in both, central and local level policies” responsible for the decline. The association members also blamed Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar, who, they said, is “not interested in meeting with stakeholders to resolve issues.” “Despite repeated requests, he has not met us even once since he took over,” complained members, adding that they wish for another tourism minister, one who is “willing to interact with stakeholders and understands the problems faced by the industry.”

“The decline in Goa’s tourism is at a time when the other states are doing quite well,” said Ernest Dias, chief operating officer of SITA.

The TTAG has identified faulty waste management, high GST rates, expensive taxis, harassment of tourists by police and deteriorating quality as some of the problems facing Goa tourism. “Due to garbage and filthy beaches, European tourists don’t want to come to Goa,” said Messias. He said that the overall decelerating trend in arrivals is also affecting wedding tourism with event managers taking the business to other states.

The TTAG has suggested a penalty on taxi drivers, who harass tourists at pick-up points, and also a single-window for wedding tourism. It said that beach cleaning needs to be handled by professional hands and GTDC should be kept away from the job of assigning contracts for beaches.

The TTAG has urged for professional marketing of the state as a solution to attract tourists. “Marketing is totally unprofessional and treated as a jaunt. Sometimes people from departments not even related to tourism are selected for tourism marketing fairs. The current policy of sending delegates on rotation is another wrong policy,” the TTAG pointed out.

The travel body has strongly contested the government’s claim of rise in tourist arrivals. It is in favour of electronic dance music festivals (EDMs) and said that fees related to the music festivals need to be lowered.

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