Q/The travel and hospitality sector is one of the worst affected by Covid-19, and Goa’s economy depends a lot on tourism.
A/We have done good work in controlling Covid-19 in Goa. We were one of the first states to restart tourism. The domestic Indian tourist is making a beeline for Goa now. Covid may not have disappeared completely, but still, by following all the norms and SOPs we have given, I can say with pride that we have successfully revived the tourism industry in Goa. Our efforts are now on to manage Covid. We are in coordination with all the district tourism authorities and industry associations. It is a matter of pride that we managed to improve the tourism infrastructure and economy in the state in the last one year. Of course, the Covid outbreak dulled it a bit. All restrictions have been removed from November 30.
Q/Have you met representatives of the hotel industry associations? What are their demands?
A/I am constantly meeting people from the hotel and tourism industry. Tourism is the biggest revenue earner for the Goan economy, followed by industries, mining and agriculture. We have given 50 per cent subsidy for the stakeholders. All tourism and commercial vehicles were given 50 per cent tax rebate for six months from April 1.
Q/International tourists contributed the largest chunk of Goa’s tourism revenue. Now, you are only getting domestic tourists. How do you think you can make up for the revenue gap?
A/Goa is well known for international tourists. Every year, scores of foreigners arrive on our shores. Forty per cent of our tourist arrivals are from abroad. It is high-end tourism and we won’t be able to fill that gap.
Q/Is there a middle path? Maybe you could get permissions for specific chartered flights of tourists?
A/We have already asked for permission from the Union home ministry as well as the ministry of external affairs if some exemptions can be given at least for the months of December and January, for that is the time when the most tourists come to Goa. Most of the chartered flights come in December and January.
Q/The tourism ministry now seems to be targetting the high-end Indian tourists who preferred to travel abroad.
A/Recently we published our tourism policy to attract high-end tourists from within the country also. We are trying our level best. Now we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of Goan Liberation and we are thinking of organising ‘cultural tourism’ under tourism promotion, and in various states as well. For the whole year we will be promoting various aspects like inland tourism, spiritual tourism and medical tourism within the country to attract high-end tourists.
Q/The hotel industry has been asking for support from the state government, like tax waiver. Are you considering it?
A/So many requests have been coming for tax waiver. So far we have given tax cuts to tourist taxis as well as to the beach shacks. We have not given any direct waiver to the hotel industry so far. It will be impossible to waive off taxes completely, because that is how government earns.