Disconnect Between Tourism Minister And Stakeholders
The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), the apex body of the stakeholders in the tourism industry, has blamed the government for fall in domestic and international tourist arrivals in the state in the current season, which it describes as the worst season ever. The figures provided by the immigration department at the Dabolim airport shows a drop of 30 per cent in foreign tourist arrivals.
The occupancy in hotels during the New Year celebrations in Goa was between 30 and 60 per cent in North Goa, as compared to almost 100 percent occupancy in the past, which shows a huge fall in domestic tourist arrivals. The TTAG attributes the fall to many reasons, for which both the state and central governments are to blame: higher costs of stay owing to higher taxes on hotel stays, higher taxi fares and higher GST charges. Adding to that is lack of value addition to beaches and their uncleanliness.
Though the tourism sector has emerged as a top revenue generator for the state the tourism department in particular and the state government in general has not done enough to help Goa sustain its place. The government policies have not been made keeping the competitiveness growing among tourism destinations in view. Rampant corruption produces substandard work, benefiting only a few in power. Kerala and other states have picked up on tourism. The state government lacks vision to equip Goa tourism with the means to beat the competition. Vague policies, poor execution and indifferent response to burning problems were responsible for the decline in tourist arrivals.
The TTAG has directly blamed Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar for failing to resolve the issues concerning tourism. It is sad to note that there has been no meeting between tourism stakeholders and the Tourism Minister ever since he took office two years ago. That the TTAG had to ventilate their grievances against the state authorities through a press conference speaks volumes and is a direct evidence of disconnect between government and the tourism stakeholders. It is a pity to note that the Tourism Minister is trying to blame stakeholders in tourism industry by saying that they did not follow up with his department about the meeting sought by them to redress their grievances.
As a policy maker it should have been Azgaonkar’s endeavour to initiate a dialogue with the tourism industry and hear its viewpoint. How can a minister take policy decisions without consulting the stakeholders? There is apparent failure on the part of the government to give a push to the tourism sector, which can be seen from the fact that it has failed to finalise the tourism master plan that has been in the making for the last seven years.
The government has announced that the master plan would be ready before the next tourism season, which begins in October this year. It is not that the authorities are not aware of the negative features of the tourism sector but they have done little to address them. According to the tourism industry stakeholders, foreign tourists have begun giving Goa a miss because of filth at the tourist places, including beaches. The Tourism Minister has grossly failed to solve the beach cleaning problem. He should have taken it as a priority as beaches are the locus of Goa tourism and if they turn unattractive tourist arrivals will further drop.
Tourism is a highly competitive business. It is not only the other states that are competing with Goa, but foreign destinations like Bali, Thailand and Sri Lanka too, which are attracting foreign tourists in increasing numbers by offering value for money. In Goa the value for money is much lower than in those destinations. In Goa the tourist pays more and gets less; in those destinations they pay less and get more.
The Tourism Minister must leave aside his other preoccupations and devote his full time to tackle the negative features of the tourism in the state. He should hold a series of meetings with the TTAG to understand where the obstacles are and take measures to overcome them. Taxes should be lowered, taxi services must be improved, a single window system should be set up for promotion of state as a wedding destination and beaches must be kept absolutely clean. Rather than seeking to blame one another the minister and senior officials of the tourism department should meet the tourism stakeholders to check the decline in domestic and foreign tourist arrivals.