The Goa government’s draft tourism policy and tourism master plan came in for severe criticism from different stakeholders and civil society activists at an interactive session convened here by the Centre for Responsible Tourism, a Church-affiliated body, on Wednesday.
The State tourism department has sought suggestions on its report on the tourism policy and master plan. The policy has been uploaded on the tourism department’s website and is open for suggestions from stakeholders and public.
Experts and activists have pointed out several flaws in the draft tourism policy and called it a "top-down master plan" prepared by foreign consultants without any discussion with the people.
More time sought
The last date to submit suggestions for the draft master plan, according to the State government, is November 11, but the CRT has demanded at least three months to study it and come up with suggestions.
The CRT has also demanded that the draft be translated into vernacular and be circulated to village panchayats for greater awareness on it through gram sabhas. It has also questioned the Goa government as to why the draft is not being published in the State gazette.
Goa University scientist and social activist Nandkumar Kamat evaluated the proposed plan and lambasted the proposal for hiding crucial information about major aspects like income generated through tourism in the State which gets close to 6.5 million tourists, including 0.06 million foreign tourists, per year.
He lamented that the master plan prepared by a professional consultant, KPMG, hides more things than it reveals. “Is it tourism for Goa or Goa for tourism? Is tourism for the benefit of people of Goa or Goa’s people are for tourism?" asked an indignant Mr. Kamat.
Besides the economic dimension, the earnings from domestic and foreign tourists have been kept hidden from the public, he claimed.
“The draft plan says nothing about income from tourism to the State, which, according to information obtained through a Right to Information plea, is around ₹29,400 crore or around 40% of the Goa's GDP. The government fears questions from the people if the figures are revealed,” said Mr. Kamat, adding that the proposed master plan is a "copy-paste job which had no place for Goa’s environment, ecology, culture, heritage”.
"Rather this document seems to be a Trojan horse for the Goa Tourism Board which hides the fact that such instrument is absent in all other States which are ahead of Goa in tourism. A public policy needs to have a clear mission statement and principles, present current situation and analyses, clearly and concisely state the goals, objectives, strategies and action plans, spell out steps for responsible tourism and provide details of implementation and review. This draft is very amateurish and purely academic in nature," said Mr. Kamat.
He also objected to a proposed autonomous Tourism Board in the policy and master plan saying if it is headed by the State Minister of Tourism as proposed therein then it is a mockery of autonomy.
Retired scientist from Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography, Antonio Mascarenhas, raised concern that the proposed master plan makes no mention of sand dunes, mangroves or ecologically sensitive areas of the coastal tourist State.
Mr. Valmiki Naik of Aam Aadmi Party said that the proposed master plan has very little of statistics and gives too much of importance to casinos.
Serafino Cota, former president of Small and Medium Restaurants Association in South Goa, suspected it was a scam and said that the draft master plan laid too much emphasis on PPP and profits for private players while there is nothing for the common people.