How was tourism affected by the pandemic?
The hotel and travel trade industry was badly affected. However, we are slowly bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels. In December 2021, thirty lakh Indian tourists visited Goa. We also received 20,000 foreign tourists. There has been a ‘Revenge travel’ trend that has been going on since the decline of cases and the nearest and best weekend destination for most was Goa. Hence, the influx of tourists has been great.
What were the initiatives taken by the Goa Department of Tourism?
We introduced a host of initiatives to give a boost to the hotel and travel trade industry. We have the Government shacks in Goa which are nowhere else in India. We reduced the fees to fifty per cent and also extended the timeline for the shack owners to pay these fees. We also introduced a scheme for charter flights where they could get a waiver of one lakh rupees by submitting the necessary documents. We have the Tourist Trade Intervention Scheme in which a loan of twenty-five lakh rupees can be availed by the hotel industry and they could get an intervention of up to 5 per cent on the interest. The Goa Tourism Board was formed last November under the Chairmanship of the Honourable Chief Minister of Goa. The Board will be responsible for the implementation of policymaking and strategizing of all the initiatives and new programs. It will be done in a very professional way. The Board is going to direct us on how to promote and market Goa in a big way.
How do you plan to attract international tourists to Goa?
Everyone knows about the beaches of Goa, but we have good forts and good archaeological sites as well as ancient temples. We are trying to project to these to the tourists, so that they can explore that side of Goa as well. The Department of Tourism has introduced a host of new adventure tourism activities in Goa. We have introduced River Rafting in North Goa and Hot Air Balloon in South Goa. We started Bungy Jumping on Mayem Lake in 2018. We are going to introduce new adventure tourism activities in the future also.
What would be your message to our readers?
We want to project Goa as a 365-day destination. Tourists can explore the scenic beauty of Goa in the monsoons. We are trying to project Goa as a hinterland tourism destination also for which we have introduced electric bicycle tours. Tourists can take these bicycles and explore the hinterlands where they can experience the actual cuisine of Goa. Goa is famous for its bread which was introduced by the Portuguese and tourists can see in the interiors how they are made. Goa is also famous for the ‘Urrak’ and ‘Cashew Feni’ and the tourists can see the process of how it is made and distilled. Heritage walks have been introduced.
What about Goa as a destination for weddings and MICE?
In terms of MICE, there are two new Convention Centres which are going to come up in North Goa out of which one has a capacity of 1000 and the other can accommodate 5000 people. This will be a big attraction for MICE Tourism. Goa is already famous as a beach-wedding destination. All five-star hotels have the necessary arrangements. We are going to introduce the ease of doing business by reducing the documentation process to make it easier.
This year the internationally known ‘Ironman’ event is happening in November and ‘Sunburn’ is in December. In monsoons, we host off-roading events as well. RFC took place in August. For all such events, we are trying to introduce a single-window system and ease of doing events so that we get more such events in the state.
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