Misuse Of Public Money By Tourism Department
THE public accounts committee (PAC) of the Goa Assembly has found that the participation of the tourism department and the Goa Tourism Development Corporation in international and domestic travel shows and hosting of road shows worldwide have not resulted in corresponding increase in tourist footfalls. There was, according to the PAC, “haphazard reporting” of the events with regard to persons met, discussions held and follow-ups done. The tourism department did not even maintain visitor books at the International Travel Marts and domestic travel marts in order to ascertain the number of visitors, their recommendations and to measure the impact of the Goa kiosk on the global and domestic audience. They did not sign memoranda of understanding during any of these road shows or ITMs. Though the website of World Travel Mart, London, gave exclusive online access all the year to exhibiting companies to cater to WTM audience, the state tourism department did not avail of the opportunity! That shows how much interested tourism minister and his travelling officers are in promoting tourism!
The state government spent Rs 19.47 crore during 2007-12 on participation in 38 international travel marts and 15 road shows worldwide. The expenditure was for hiring services of agencies for the events and travel of the delegation members including politicians in power and officers. The Goa Tourism Development Corporation conducted 14 road shows, incurring an expenditure of Rs 4 crore between August 2010 and November 2011. The event management companies were expected to contact 150 major tour operators and or travel planners for participation in the events and showcase Goa as a tourism brand. However, the event management companies managed to ensure participation of only 64 travel operators. The road shows conducted by the GTDC did not result in any trade contract, business agreement or MoUs with any of major tour operators. The GTDC failed to utilise the services of private players in hospitality industry for the road shows, whose knowledge of the state’s culture and arts could have facilitated valuable exchange of knowledge and strengthening of tourism products.
For the past several years the state has been hiring agencies and sending teams to promote Goa as a tourist destination. The Goan delegations have travelled far and wide but despite such promotions and road shows Goa has not been able to attract high-end tourists. The promotional tours have often been junkets, as politicians and officers compete for free tickets and lodging abroad. With politicians and officers unashamed of failure to get value for public money the junkets have continued, with regular and new beneficiaries. Last year a state delegation led by Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar visited the United States purportedly to promote Goa as a tourist destination to Americans. The promotion was done very haphazardly, more of a show to justify the expenses of the ministers and officers, than to get Americans to come to Goa. Statistics put out by the tourism department does not show any unusual number of Americans arriving indicating that the money spent on tours to US have gone down the drain. The tourism department and GTDC must be compelled to hire an agency of integrity and high professionalism to organize the participation in domestic and international shows. Public money cannot be wasted in such brazen manner. The government must get return on investment of public money.
Here we are, when the minister and officers of the tourism department and the GTDC do not care to maintain visitors’ books and other records for themselves or any agency engaged in oversight such as the PAC or the Comptroller and Auditor General of India to judge whether the participation has given results or just been enjoyment of politicians and officers on public money. Why do ministers and officers go to international shows, after all? The tourism department must be stopped from wasting any more public money on domestic and international shows. More investment should be made to promote Goa online. Individual travellers are today using online channels to select and book their tours. The tourism department can get attractive videos and photographs and texts put online to attract tourists. The number of foreign tourists arriving in the state has fallen this year, which is an indication that Goa is losing its charm. The state government should take serious note of falling numbers of foreign tourists. The money wasted on jaunts should be used to improve the infrastructure and other attractions – they have not been able to even keep the beaches clean! If Goa needs to participate in domestic and international shows, professionals should go, rather than minister and high officers, and the agency organizing it must maintain precise records.