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Value Adding To Tourism

New attractions needed to increase tourist arrivals

TAKING note of tourists curtailing their stay in Goa to just 2-3 days, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has promised to announce a tourism policy soon in order to tempt tourists to prolong their stay. Sawant said that the policy would be unveiled before the next tourist season that is still nine months away. It is not only shorter stay that is a cause for worry, but also a fall in tourist arrivals. Perhaps these two issues must have prompted the government to think of corrective steps to attract tourists. The tourist season in Goa begins in October and lasts till May the following year. It is surprising to note that it took the government so long to realize that the state lacked attractions to retain tourists and come up with the idea of developing newer avenues to attract tourists. With Sawant announcing that new policy would be unveiled by October, Goa may lose the next tourist season as well.

It is surprising to note that it took such a long time for the state authorities to realize that the resources endowed by nature could not alone be exploited to attract the tourists and rake the moolah. The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa has for long been highlighting the need for creation of additional facilities to attract tourists and retain their stay for longer time. The government failed to heed to their request and continued promoting the state in domestic and foreign markets without bothering to upgrade the necessary infrastructure. Now that the government has realized the need to create additional facilities, it should come up with plans to add newer infrastructure at the earliest so that state can win back the tourists who gave it an escape. The government has to realize that just announcing newer plans for tourism sector would not attract tourists but a ready infrastructure could make huge difference. The Chief Minister should ensure expeditious completion of the long delayed tourism master plan to ensure that infrastructure is created as envisaged in it.

It is not that Goa does not have tourist attractions other than sun, sand and sea but the state authorities never felt the need to create newer attractions and take tourism away from the coast till the reality dawned on them rather belatedly. The state authorities should come out with newer plans at the earliest so that the envisaged plans are executed at earliest. With the state running low on funds, it would be better if private players were encouraged to set up tourism related infrastructure which would benefit them as well as the government and help the state use funds for other developmental activities. It is heartening to note that the Chief Minister has said that all the stakeholders would be taken into confidence while the tourism policy was being framed. The stakeholders in tourism sector have for long been complaining that they were not taken on board while major decisions on tourism were taken by the government and have gone to blame it for the fall in tourist arrivals. It is better to be late rather than never.

It is not only the lack of newer attractions or infrastructure that was responsible for fall in tourist footfalls but also the greed of taxi operators to overexploit the tourists, the failure of authorities to ensure prompt action against those accused of wrong doings, etc that has led to decline in tourists. Though the authorities have sought to blame recession for the shortfall in tourists the fact that other tourist centers continue to receive the tourists is an indication that not all is well with the tourism in Goa. The promised infrastructure and additional facilities are nowhere to be seen despite their announcement close to a decade ago. The state should overcome shortfalls in the tourism sector before it is too late and ensure that much needed infrastructure and other tourist attractions like amusement park, ropeway, helicopter rides, etc were in place at the earliest. Rather than seeking to create newer tourism facilities only along the coastal areas the authorities should plan to set up facilities in the hinterland where land was available which will help decongest the coastal areas and create newer facilities in unexploited areas.

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