Crucial in bringing back tourists for Goa’s economy
Plans are underway to form the Goa Tourism Board for planning, policy making and overseeing the implementation of various tourism initiatives, Goa Tourism Secretary J Ashok Kumar said.
Tourism, one of Goa’s main industries, contributes more than 16 percent to the state’s GDP and supports more than 40 percent of jobs and livelihoods. The state has approximately 3,600 hotels and other accommodation units in four categories registered with the Ministry of Tourism, with a global supply of over 73,000 beds.
Besides renowned tourism infrastructure developments, Goa Tourism has constantly developed the basic and necessary infrastructure in the state, such as public amenities, including shower rooms and changing rooms, tourist information centers, car parks, the installation of CCTV cameras for security and surveillance, creating wi-fi hotspots and GIS mapping of various tourism-related infrastructures. While the state has good connectivity by air, land, rail and sea, MOPA’s future international airport will further enhance air connectivity, especially direct connections with several countries around the world. Excerpts from an interview with Goa Tourism Secretary J Ashok Kumar.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the face of tourism in Goa?
The tourism sector had to close its doors for more than four months in 2020. After carrying out brief activities until April 2021, the state once again went into curfew mode and the majority of tourism businesses did not. not yet open to date. The pandemic has also had a strong behavioral impact on tourist preferences. What represented the essence of tourism – crossing borders, mingling with strangers, discovering the unknown – has been shown to accelerate the spread of the virus. Some changes in tourist preferences include mode of travel (preference for self-driving to destination), type of vacation (preference for stays especially to locations closer to home), nature and location. type of accommodation (preference for villas and other accommodation in known places) and types of activities (Nature and well-being). While these preferences may not prevail forever, they will surely gain in importance in the months to come, and it is our responsibility to adapt to them. Even before the pandemic, Goa was already refocusing its strategy towards more responsible tourism. We believe that given the size and environmental vulnerability of Goa, it is wiser to focus on quality tourism rather than large volumes of attendance. Responsible tourism can help us achieve this goal. The current crisis has consolidated our belief in responsible travel.
Share your plans to attract more domestic tourists to the state to provide the much needed boost to help support tourism destinations and businesses.
Getting tourists back as early as possible is crucial for Goa’s economy. Due to its limited population and small size, Goa cannot survive on local tourism by promoting intrastate tourism like many other Indian states. Domestic tourism has been a powerful driver of tourism in the state. In 2019, Goa attracted around eight million tourists, of which 88.4% were domestic tourists. Since Goa opened its borders to tourism in September 2020, Goa has attracted 3.5 million domestic tourists, pushing several tourism businesses on the road to recovery.
In line with changing tourism preferences and our strategy of diversifying and promoting nature, eco and wellness tourism products, we are aligning our service offerings as follows. We believe that the same not only attracts tourists, but will also help in effective crowd management.
* Besides famous beaches, tourists can explore the hinterland and lesser-known places through experiential tours. Guided tours by experts to help tourists experience Goan heritage, culture, music and food in a new way.
* Thematic visits of the village – among options such as heritage / culture, spiritual, nature and backwaters, well-being and agro.
* Explore Goa through electric bikes. In addition, Goa Tourism will shortly be launching tours through alternative modes of transportation such as Hop-On Hop-Off buses, amphibious ships and personal transportation devices.
* Goa Tourism will soon be introducing eco-labels for wellness centers to help tourists select the best Ayurveda or wellness center.
* Promotion of host families and registered villas as a means of stay and nomadic workspaces for tourists.
* Tourists can enjoy adventure activities such as bungee jumping, houseboats and heritage cruises, while exploring the hinterland or backwaters.
* The nautical circuits which encompass boat trips, kayaking and big game fishing offer tourists indispensable edutainment entertainment in a responsible manner.
* Promote lesser-known activities, places and attractions to tourists on social media.
What steps is Goa Tourism taking to rebuild the tourism and hospitality industry?
Goa Tourism has adopted a three-pronged strategy to rebuild its tourism and hospitality industry – Survive, Revive and Thrive.
As part of Survive, the state government announced a series of industry support measures:
* Extension of tourist licenses for 2020-21
* Exemption from landing fees up to Rs 100,000 for the first 500 international charters
* Working capital interest subsidy scheme for budget category accommodation units and tour operators registered with the Ministry of Tourism up to working loans of Rs 25 lakh
* Moratorium for the payment of electricity charges
As part of Revive, Goa Tourism has undertaken multiple initiatives:
* Receive the “Safe Travel” stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) which underlines the commitment of tourism companies to follow the SOPs and protocols specific to Covid-19
* Only tourist establishments registered under security protocols have been authorized to make tourist reservations to ensure compliance with Covid-19 protocols
* Focus on domestic tourists in the short and medium term
* Strengthening of the existing base of tourist guides through the introduction of a tourist guide program
The various actions expected to help Thrive include:
* Develop the brand image towards “Responsible Tourism Destination” through the development of suitable infrastructure and the introduction of various products and services
* Periodic interaction with industry to realign product portfolio to customer trends
* Targeted marketing and promotion campaigns, both digital and physical, to attract tourists in addition to building the confidence of tourists visiting Goa
What niche products can help revive the tourism sector after the pandemic? Your plans to boost tourism in the future?
Fear of the spread of the virus has led guests to prefer to travel and stay in less crowded places. In addition, people are more aware of health and well-being. Therefore, we believe that all products and services related to eco, nature and wellness will flourish in the near future. Due to the increasing adoption of IT and technology among people, it is very likely that technology-oriented products and services in the tourism and hospitality industry will emerge strongly. In line with its vision, Goa Tourism plans to align all of its products and services with the ever-changing expectations of customers while simplifying its processes, providing a hassle-free experience for all tourists visiting the state.
Your point of view on the future prospects of the hospitality and tourism sectors.
The tourism and hospitality sectors are sure to return to pre-Covid levels over the next two to three years and are expected to thrive thereafter. The pandemic has put existing businesses to the test of time and the new normal has led to the emergence of new business models. Indeed, the mode of service delivery is expected to undergo significant changes. In addition, the adaptation of tourists to the new normal, although initially difficult but ultimately accepted, will also have a strong impact on their vacation preferences. These two factors will drive changes in the tourism and hospitality industry – type and format of services.
How friendly is Goa for tourism investors?
The government will soon form the Goa Tourism Board, which will be headed by the Chief Minister. It will be a supreme body for planning, policy making, strategy development and overseeing the implementation of various tourism programs and initiatives and will be represented equally by government and industry. It will be investor friendly and will show our willingness to collaborate with the private sector for the development of tourism infrastructure in the state. In addition, the state has finalized a new Goa Investment Promotion and Single Window Clearance Facilitation Law 2021, which provides for a single window for all investments in the state. Our strategy is simple: the role of government in the development of tourism infrastructure will be of an enabling and oversight nature, while the private sector will be invited to develop, operate and manage tourism infrastructure. We believe this philosophy will help us witness a significant shift in tourism investment in the state.