Tuesday 26 October 2021

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Economy | Tourism

NGOs suggest drastic measures in tourism master plan


Imposing a ceiling on the number of tourists and suspending all tourism promotion programmes abroad until creation of proper infrastructural facilities is a forceful demand the local NGOs have made for sustainable tourism development in Goa.

While tourism industry is on decline here, the state government has once again mooted the idea of preparing a tourism master plan, inviting suggestions from the NGOs and other citizens. Accordingly, nine local NGOs have together submitted a draft plan.

The government is keen on promoting 'high quality' beach tourism for international tourists. But the NGOs, which include environmental groups, women's groups and fishermen's union, demand to place more emphasis on providing facilities to domestic tourists.

Goa attracts 80 per cent domestic tourists, though 65 per cent of its income is generated through foreign exchange. However, the state authorities also admit that hardly any share of its forex earnings comes back to the state from the central government.

The NGOs precisely point out to the fact that large amount of public money is being spent on facilitating the foreign or charter tourists, who are highly unpredictable in terms of sustaining the industry. "We need to have authentic information on forex earnings and outgoings", the draft states.

Budgetary allocation for tourism infrastructure has also been demanded, which include water, electricity, transport, health centres, telephone and allied services like sewage and garbage removal. Beaches should be cleaned by collecting taxes from tourists and hotels, it states.

Tourism promotion cannot be at the expense of Goan society, whether in terms of depriving locals the basic facilities, destroying the environment or disturbing the peace. Code of dress and behaviour as also control on liquor consumption and loud music parties is a must, it states.

The NGOs have also heavily come down on government's attitude of distorting Goa's image and allowing its projection as a place of prostitution, pimping, drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, casinos and child abuse.

Lack of strict enforcement of Tourism Trade Act to control arbitrary hotel tariffs or taxi charges, especially during peak periods, amounts to extortion of tourists. Abolition of such illegal systems is a necessity, the NGOs feel.

"Tourism of the past ten years has resulted in undermining the quality of life of local people, making it more difficult in economic terms. It has underdeveloped Goa instead of developing it and increasing welfare", states the document.

Instead of attaining a status of concrete slums in future, the NGOs demand to lay more stress on safeguarding natural resources and man-made heritage areas. "It would promote sustainable tourism that benefits the local community instead of degrading it".

The NGOs include environmental groups like Goa Foundation, INSAF, Peaceful Society, Nirmal Vishwa, Indian Heritage Society, women's groups like Bailancho Saad and Bailancho Ekvott, People for Animals and Goa Fishermen's Union.

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