Goa winning four national tourism awards is like a soothing balm to the State when its image lay bruised. Out of the four, two awards have come as a surprise. GoaMiles bagged the honour for the most innovative use of information technology-social media mobile app for a fully indigenous mobile taxi app. Also, Calangute won the best civic management of a tourist destination in India. The other two awards were for Comprehensive Development of Tourism and devotion of duty to four Drishti lifeguards.
The awards will provide some sunshine to an otherwise gloomy tourism season overshadowed by various issues. On top of the list was the narcotic issue triggered by the death of BJP leader and actress Sonali Phogat. The State has earned bad publicity as a drug destination forcing police forces of other States like Hyderabad to launch a crackdown. The razing of the shack Curlies, which has been at the centre of controversy and the arrests of drug lords and restaurant owners were signs that Goa was desperately trying to salvage the situation.
Ironically, GoaMiles, which has been fighting a constant battle for survival, crossing paths with the powerful local taxi lobby and gradually losing support from those in the government, has impressed the jury. The award should inspire the government toward more technology-driven mobile apps that could add to the comfort of the tourist. It is time for the government to find an amicable solution to the vexed taxi issue and move toward an app after taking the local taxis into confidence.
The award of best civic management of a tourist destination to Calangute comes as a major surprise because the tourism capital of the State is plagued with some severe civic issues. Noise pollution is at its peak in Calangute, with restaurants, pubs and party joints blowing high-decibel music in total violation of the sound ban and completely disregarding civic sense. So is the case with the garbage strewn along roadsides, with even restauranteurs finding it easier to dump waste anywhere and everywhere despite having a garbage collection process. The trash collected on beaches on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday on September 17 is testimony to the shabby state of affairs. And yes, one cannot forget the drugs circulating in Calangute.
Goa may feel proud of the four awards, but Goans may not reconcile to the honour bestowed because our tourism cuts out a sorry figure.
The awards will bring in some feel-good factor, bolster the mood, and give the marketing pitch some ammo. Nothing more. These awards will not change our tourism. What Goa currently needs is a comprehensive tourism detox and a makeover. The new tourism minister Rohan Khaunte has shown promise, and concepts like circuit tourism and ''workation'' and his vision of bringing in quality tourism raise new hope. The question is whether stakeholders are willing to shed the excess baggage currently weighing our tourism down.