The Cabinet has finally approved the Tourism Master Plan& Goa State Tourism Policy 2020 after years of dilly-dallying. On thehorizon is a Tourism Board which is expected to draw strategies on thepromotion of tourism. Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar seeks to promotedrug-free Goa and is eyeing quality tourists. All that is fine, but the mootquestion is whether this master plan has the people's mandate. Is this masterplan customized to Goa, its tourism landscape and the traditional communities?Or is it just another conceptual layout that is copy-pasted from a settemplate, bulldozing over the lives of the common man?
The tourism eco-system in Goa is distinctly different.Lives, livelihoods and traditional businesses are dependent on this sector fordecades, and hence public participation in policy-making becomes crucial.Critical documents like these need an overwhelming approval from the people ofthe State first. The nitty-gritty of the plan has to be in the public domain,discussed and thoroughly debated much before it is tabled in the LegislativeAssembly. More importantly, the government of the day has to be transparent.Transparency is the operative word here. We don't understand the hurry in themidst of a pandemic. Anyways, the plan was already delayed by nearly fouryears. Also, going ahead with the master plan and the policy is not going tosee an immediate change in fortunes.
On paper, no matter how glorious the plans, Goa willstill have to reinvent itself from scratch. Ajgaonkar's strategy to promotehinterland tourism, sports tourism, eco-tourism, health tourism and educationtourism is as vague as a shadow right now because there is simply no supportinginfrastructure. Moreover, expecting a turn-around based on these policydocuments is far-fetched because global markets have collapsed under the Covidattack. At this point, even the airport director is on record saying thatchartered flights cannot arrive until international operations resume.
For the master plan to take concrete shape, the Stategovernment will have to invest heavily in infrastructure. The overall outlookhas to change, and no consultant is going to help in that. Tourism is connectedto other allied issues that Goa is currently grappling with. The Saligaogarbage treatment plant is running the extra mile to accommodate garbage fromareas beyond its jurisdiction, and the Cacora plant is another two years awayif Minister for Waste Management Michael Lobo is to be believed. The Bainguinimplant will take even longer. 'The dirty picture' that blots Goa's tourism isnot going to fade away so soon. We need to wipe out evils like narcotics,rave-parties and gambling and make a fresh start. Is Ajgaonkar ready for this?
The competition has moved notches ahead. Kerala or evenSri Lanka has made giant strides outpacing Goa with their rustic village appealand tourism-friendly approach. The locals are the key players there. Whether itis a master plan or a policy, Goa has a long way to go if it is to re-establishitself as the most-favoured tourism destination.