Edit Corner

Sustainable Tourism development is a must!

Where do you draw the line of support between a project of socio-economic-tourism potential vis-à-vis an agitation to save the agricultural land of landlords and tenants (who have themselves willfully agreed to the purchase of their land) by a renowned player in the tourism and hospitality space who intends to redefine the tourism potential of Goa with their tourism initiative. And in weighing the case in totality and understanding all angles of the issue surrounding the Querim-Teracol Golf Course project; I am convinced as a concept it is the need of the hour; mind you, because of it you might not see and windfall of tourism business as compared to a Convention Centre; but one step in that direction could open doors and instill confidence in some of the major national and international investors, and hotel and tourism players towards  Goa.

Just as information for people who do not follow tourism business dynamics; in the recently concluded Gujarat Global Investors meet; the Government of Gujarat signed over 405 MoUs encompassing tourism and airport infrastructure development, hotels, theme parks, convention centres and many tourism related business alliances with its estimated value being over Rs 33,000 Crore; the investors to most of the projects where NRIs from Gujarat and international investors of repute and branding.

Neither has a corporate entity nor the government of Goa been able to conceptualize, forget the executing part of an idea of such a potential as Goa Global Investors meet.

In early 2002, when the Centre started to take a proactive role in the tourism sector by according it the industry status in the Union Budget and relaxation of Foreign Direct Investment into the sector in the subsequent years, it opened the market for international hotels and tourism brands to set foot in India making the level field competitive and ensuring international tourist arrivals into the country increases. Because of this Goa as a state too has benefited.

Since Goa in the national and International marketplace is considered to be a state of great tourism potential many flocked to Goa; however, in 2005 and 2006 because of the lack of a clear focus of the government in caring for the true welfare of the state, some ministers decided to play the ‘let’s milk the cash cow game’; on account of which the public were annoyed and there was a huge and successful agitation to curb this menace of unplanned development of real estate. Unfortunately, real estate forms a vital component of tourism, so, many genuine interests in setting up good tourism and hospitality projects in Goa went out the window. As on today many international fund houses and hotel brands do not want to venture into Goa because of the unwanted hassles and delays, leading to a non-viability of any hotel or tourism project. Some Indian real estate developers with powerful lobby in the state and Centre continue to stick on because they believe they can move the government machinery at all levels to muscle their way through any oppositions. So while NGOs make initial noise eventually the projects do come up; some of them have been blatant violations of ecological norms.

But if the government in its wisdom, which is not surprising does not exist since to understand integrated development of state holistically you need to have people with educated background and commonsense, and not uneducated musclemen who turn out to be extortionists deciding the way forward on this front. Even some of the bureaucrats in top position in Goa have no option but to tow the line of the ministers. And if you couple it with citizens who might be educated but have not taken out the time to understand the basis of economic growth or find a middle-path solution to concerns of progressive growth but agitate on every issue you will suddenly find Goans missing from Goa, since there is no opportunity for the local Goans in Goa. Even Goans entrepreneurs setting up real estate or tourism projects have become victim of activists’ harassment; so where is the level playing field. And where are the activists after the initial noise or pacification.

Has even one of the activists taken time-out to prepare a detailed economic growth plan or policy for the people of Goa? If they have, as GoaChronicle.com I assure you we will ensure if it has credence and value we will take up the cause to its logical end. But sadly, nothing on this front has ever happened or will ever happen. It is like the saying goes ‘empty vessels make the most noise’.

As of today there is USD 4 Billion in tourism, hotel and real estate funds in offing for India from some of the most reputed International and National fund houses. Goa was considered to be one of states of prime importance from tourism. Some of the most prolific hotel brands such as Shangri-La, Club Med, Movenpick, Armani, Starwood and Marriott have been keen in making their presence felt in Goa; because let’s face it to them it makes great business sense and to us too since it’s better to have branded reputed hotels than shady operators from North Goa here to make a quick buck. And trust me some of these hotels are cesspools of prostitution. If you do not believe, take a look at the North Goa beach belt and you will notice that while some properties are owned by locals Goans, many are marketed and managed by North Goa hotel operators with questionable standing.

Post the expose ‘From Orchard to Golf Course – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, we have been getting calls from some NGOs stating that we should be objecting to the project. So we’ve told them to come back with two important documents, if we have to listen to their viewpoints – one – what is wrong with the Golf course project and list the problems. And – second – a comprehensive tourism infrastructure and economic development plan. If they are able to convince us on both, we will object to the Golf Course project. But until then, I am clear Golf Tourism is a must and along with it Convention Centres, Eco-Tourism concept, Village Tourism concept, Cultural Tourism concept are also a must. I certainly don’t agree with the tourism minister Nilkanth Halarnkar when he moots that we should make Goa a rock destination; Mr Halarnkar rock crowds are not a paying tourist crowds also it is not a long-term beneficial strategy.

I hope the government pulls up its socks and work towards creating a viable Tourism Infrastructure Development Policy.

– Savio Rodrigues
Editor & Founder
savio@goachronicle.com

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