Human Rights Defenders (HRD), an organisation backing registered tourist guides, on Thursday warned that they would approach the Anti-Corruption Branch of the State Vigilance or the Lokayukta to complain against Goa Tourism Department for allowing illegal tour agencies of foreign nationals to operate with impunity in the State’s coastal areas.

Foreigners are increasingly indulging in illegal travel and tour guiding activity in Goa, Advino Fernandes of HRD claimed in a letter addressed to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the copies of which were released to presspersons on Thursday.

A spokesman from the Tourism Department emphatically denied the charges and said investigations were still in progress over the complaints.

He said collectors have been told to conduct inquiries and surprise inspections to crack down against any unauthorised agencies operating as tour guides or tour agencies. Any action in this regard is taken under the Tourism Trade Act.

After complaints that foreigners were buying immovable properties illegally several years back, coastal belt villagers continued to complain about foreigners on tourist visas doing small businesses on beaches. Many taxi operators recently approached Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, complaining that foreigners were operating taxis illegally.

“By way of the Right to Information Act, personal inspection and photographs taken on site and after verifying the facts, we state that the Tourism Department is involved in serious illegal activities which are not only against the pride of Goa but endangering the interest and security of our country,” said the letter written by HRD. We had provided all the relevant data in our complaint on March 8, which was addressed to the Chief Minister and other authorities including the State Director-General of Police, but no action was taken.

HRD has said that the guideline issued by the Tourism Department, regarding monuments protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, is that travel agencies should deploy or engage the services of regional-level tourist guides trained and licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, or under the orders of the court.

“In order to safeguard the dignity of our State, we request you to initiate action against foreign nationals engaged in such operations under the provision of law,” HRD said in the letter.

The spokesman from the Department did not rule out misunderstanding on the part of the local tour guides over a case where a local agency was employed for the purpose of having tour conductors on behalf of a foreign tour agency for their clientele visiting the State, due to the language and communication problems.

They only conduct tours and do not indulge in activities as tour guides.

If any foreigners were found employed in such activities in violation of FEMA and the Goa Tourism Trade Act, action would be taken immediately.

  • Collectors told to crack down on any unauthorised tour agencies, tour guides

  • ‘We provided all the information in a complaint on March 8, but no action was taken’