Cong, tourism stakeholders slam Babu’s Dubai junket

Panaji: Describing the junket of the tourism department to Dubai as “squandering of public money”, the Congress party on Tuesday said that “such family trips to foreign countries have never succeeded in increasing the number of tourists arriving in Goa.”

On the other hand, the stakeholders in the state tourism industry have criticised the tour for being “hollow, unproductive and an excursion for the chosen few, high-level officials of the tourism department.”

A delegation of the tourism department headed by Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Tourism Manohar ‘Babu’ Ajgaonkar is presently in Dubai for promotion of Goan tourism at the Arabian Travel Market.

The delegation, which includes top officers of the department of tourism and Goa Tourism Development Corporation, is also accompanied by Megha, the wife of the Tourism Minister, Trivesh, his son, and Vishal Bhirondekar, a relative, who is a government employee working with the Goa Housing Board.

Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar, addressing a press conference at the Congress House, said that the Congress party had exposed the “family trip of Ajgaonkars” to the US, last summer, veiled as a tourism promotion visit. “It is an open secret how many American tourists visit Goa,” he retorted, adding that the Congress party had even demanded accounts pertaining to the US travel expenditure of the Ajgaonkar family, which were never made available.

Speaking further, Chodankar said that Ajgaonkars are now on a vacation to Dubai as a part of the tourism promotion delegation, this time when the model election code of conduct is in force. He also pooh-poohed such delegations for being devoid of any experts in the tourism field, and questioned the rationale behind the decision of the tourism department of not consulting stakeholder associations in the Goan tourism field, in connection with such trips.

The GPCC also said that the Bharatiya Janata Party government has given a free hand to Ajgaonkar, as the BJP is only interested in keeping its government intact and nothing else. He further condemned popularisation of casinos by the tourism department, at the travel events in foreign countries, adding that when the central government has banned the casino activities, Ajgaonkar has formulated his own policy to promote them in foreign countries.

Meanwhile, a reaction to the Dubai junket on social media mentions that the Goa tourism exhibition stands at the Arabian Travel Market are handled by non-Goans and furthermore, casinos and cheaply costing alcohol are used during this promotion drive in Dubai as bait for the tourists to visit Goa.

It is also learnt that the Goa tourism stall at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, in November 2018 was handled by two Polish staff.