Thursday 20 September 2018

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Economy | Tourism

Tourism emerges as Goa's backbone, catches spondalitis

 

Tourism, in last two and a half decades, has emerged as a backbone of Goan economy, pushing mining in the back seat. But this major livelihood of Goa today suffers from spondalitis, due to lack of proper planning and vision. It is caught up between the new emerging thought of discarding the "quantity tourism" and developing "quality tourism".

But no signs are visible of implementing the plans to develop "quality tourism" while the existing "quantity tourism" is on a decline. Tourism director U D Kamat refuses to accept the argument of decline. "There is three per cent rise in domestic tourists while it is 10 per cent among the foreign tourists since last year", he claims.

His contention appears true on a face value. But little deeper look at the official figures clearly indicates that the rise in tourist arrivals every year is actually reducing or marching towards a stagnation point. Kamat later on admits it, claiming it to be a "temporary phenomena", but without citing convincing reasons for such a decline.

The tourist state, projected as "Rome of the East", receives 80 per cent domestic and 20 per cent foreign tourists, though its 80 per cent revenue comes from the foreign exchange. With 1.10 million tourists arrived in 1995, the tourism industry earned around Rs 400 crore while it rose to Rs 425 crore with 1.2 million tourists arriving last year. The total income earned on tourism ranges between Rs 600 to Rs 650 crore.

It is mostly four coastal talukas of Salcete, Mormugao, Tiswadi and Bardez with around seven lakh population, comprising around 57 per cent of Goa's population, which is primarily depending on tourism - directly or indirectly. The actual employment figures worked out by the tourism department, including hotels, restaurants, transport and other tourist services, is 33,000.

The involvement of local population in tourist trade has however increased in last one decade, with a remarkable rise of 7.6 per cent shown in tourist arrivals in 1986. It included 8 per cent rise in domestic tourists, against 5 per cent among the foreigners. But the trade kept on fluctuating till 1991, when 24 per cent less foreigners arrived here while the domestic decline was hardly 2.6 per cent.

Providing good business opportunities to large number of coastal population than selected five star hotels, the domestic tourist arrivals rose to 6.4 per cent in '94 # 8,49,404 to be precise. Though the number is rising since then, the actual rise in percentage is showing a decline # only 3.5 per cent rise in '95 and 1.3 per cent rise last year. Hardly 475 more tourists came in October, when the peak season begins. The department is still not disclosing figures of November and December.

The case of foreign tourists is no different, where 1990 was a turning point, witnessing 14 per cent rise in foreign tourists after fluctuations till 1987. But after remarkable rise of 55 per cent in 1992, it is now fast reaching a stagnation point, with 23 per cent rise in '94 reaching down to nine per cent rise the following year and only 2.6 per cent rise till October last year. Only 700 more foreigners landed in Goa in October, compared to last year's figures.

Similar trend is also witnessed among charter tourists, with Goa receiving 48 charters less till April this year, though the actual decline in number of charter tourists is hardly 1200. While Goa gets around 58 per cent charters from UK alone, the trend of charters flying directly to Kerala from UK as well as Goan charter tourists proceeding southwards is a warning signal. Goa has received less number of flights throughout the year, except in October and January, while no flight would land in May, states Kamat.

"The number of charters would increase this year due to our efforts", says Lenny Pinto, the local manager of Sita World Travels and former president of Goa Travel & Tourism Association. But he cannot give a guarantee that their efforts would bear fruits every year, mainly due to the government policy. He admits that charter tourists have begun moving Southwards to Kerala.

''We don't want such cheap tourists. Let them go", quips Dr Wilfred de Souza, the Deputy CM looking after tourism. It's due to the change in tourism policy, which aims at reducing the number and upgrading the quality of tourism, he claims. Providing necessary infrastructure for it like the international airport, superhighways, widening the existing roads etc is topping his agenda.

But whether it would materialise in the near future is still a question mark as the government has dropped plans for offshore casinos being, stalled proposals and no site identified for a world convention centre, due to public unrest. The government is also in a process of preparing the tourism master plan for quality tourism, which several local NGOs have opposed to.

"We are happy that the foreign inflow is dropping. We won't tolerate them at the cost of socio-economic development of the locals", says Dr Claude Alvares, a local environmentalist, whose Goa Foundation along with other NGOs has demanded ceiling on foreign tourists.

Dr Alvares has serious doubts over the government policy of quality tourism, as the high class foreign tourists are environment-conscious while Goan ecology has already been destroyed. "It's like putting a cart before the horse. How can quality tourism be developed without planning for it at least five years in advance", asks Pinto.

The middle-class and higher middle class tourists, in the meanwhile, seem to be shying away due to the increasing greed of Goans combined with political favouritism resulting into beaches getting crowded with shacks all over it, unhygeinic expensive food and accommodation and free hand given by the police authorities for drug trade and other illegal activities. Many hotels, including the five star ones, had its beds vacant even during Christmas season this time, sources say.

The existing "quantity tourism", in the bargain, is suffering with no measures being worked out to confront the difficulties they face like clean beaches, efficient transport and road network, water availability and accommodation. The government is also not planning to shift from beach tourism to the interior greenery and historical monuments, the demand made by several NGOs here, for sustainable tourism. The future of tourism seems bleak in such a situation.






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