What are the measures taken to revive the economy of Goa?
Due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, the tourism sector of Goa had collapsed. To revive the sector, the efforts will have to start from the grassroots level. During the lockdown, no tourists were coming to Goa. At that time, people were looking at saving their lives, and not looking at entertainment. But now people are looking for some change, after being confined at home or a location for quite a while.
In this COVID-19 era, I do not think tourism will survive if there is no vaccine. Yet, I believe that Goa will continue to attract tourists. Goa offers natural beauty — due to beaches, temples, churches, eco-tourism, adventure tourism etc. Thus, domestic and international tourists give preference to Goa. So, there is no doubt on the revival of Goa tourism. To start with, we have permitted shacks on beaches to operate. We have slashed their fee by 50 per cent and are encouraging them to conduct their business.
Is Goa tourism at a complete standstill or is it reviving?
Tourism activities have started in the state. Tourists have started coming to Goa. As per our evaluation, most of the five-star hotels are operating at 80 per cent capacity. Domestic tourists are coming to Goa for a change. I do not know about tomorrow, but today I see a revival of confidence among tourists coming to Goa.
The Central Government has also allowed the movement of people. But the tourism sector has to revive. If the sector does not revive, then there will be no means of livelihood for the people. There are bills to be paid, employees’ salaries to be paid, and other commitments to be met. But for the sector to reach its true potential, the vaccine against COVID-19 is the only hope.
Will Goa again welcome Sunburn and other events, if and when COVID-19 pandemic fears have died off? Will it try attracting such events back to the state?
One or two events that you have referred to are not the only events that Goa is famous for. There are events like BRICS, IFFI, FIFA, etc. Every event that takes place in Goa is famous. These events get popular because of Goa and not the other way round. Sunburn is just one event and Goa is not famous because of it.
There has been a rise in crime (carried out by tourists) after the lockdown was lifted. How do you see that scenario play up?
Our Goa is safe. Our Chief Minister, Pramod Sawant is keeping a close watch. The drug racket that got busted is an example of the efforts of the state. This is because our CM does not compromise.
Goa had also revised taxes on alcohol. How do you see that impact the tourism business?
Compared to the rest of the country, taxes imposed on alcohol in Goa continue to be the lowest. For Goans, the taxes are almost nil and it is only for tourists that the taxes are levied. We cannot increase taxes on alcohol significantly as Cashew Feni is the state drink. And people enjoy this about Goa.
Local communities are hurt at times due to the unruly behaviour of tourists. How do you address that concern?
Our culture is welcoming. We have the Carnival and Shigmo where dance and music take place and locals always cooperate. In our culture, drinks are important and everyone is aware of that. But people in this state never become unruly after drinks. Despite drinking, people in the state are well behaved. The motto is, drink at your house. But the neighbours mustn’t know that you are drinking.
Thus, I keep telling the tourists who come to Goa: Please understand the culture of Goa before you come. Our culture is such that everyone can enjoy Goa. The state addresses the needs of all types of tourists. Thus, we are happy to welcome well-behaved tourists. We have created new rules aimed at taking action against such unruly tourists.
Even during the promotion events of Goa Tourism, I have realised that people aspire to go to Goa. Anyone who comes to Goa, for them we have one policy — Atithi Devo Bhava (a tourist is like a god). Thus, we always strive towards providing safety and security to all tourists as well.
How will the new rules help curb the unruly behaviour of tourists?
The Act will take care of the beggars that walk around and trouble people. We are going to get rid of illegal hawkers as well. We have also ensured that people do not come in groups and start drinking in open spaces. We have introduced a hefty fine of Rs 15,000-20,000 for such people. This is for locals as well as tourists. Goa is a peaceful state and anyone who comes here will have to maintain that if they truly want to enjoy Goa. This is the culture of Goa.
What is the number of tourists Goa usually attracts?
Goa is a state with a population of 14-15 lakh people. As per state data, 90 lakh tourists come to the state annually. This data is based on the information collected from registered businesses.
As per a survey conducted by KPMG, it was found that the state attracts around 1.60 crore tourists annually. But on record, we had only 90 lakh.
After this finding, we have made it mandatory for all accommodation facilities like a homestay, guest houses, private accommodation etc, to come forward and register themselves. We are concerned about the safety of tourists and national security as well. So, that bookings can be made only in recognised facilities. This will also help us understand the number of tourists coming to the state.