Panaji, Nov 28 : Describing the newly-minted Goa Tourism Policy 2020 as a "mirage" which will not benefit either the state or its people, a church body has said that the document is not only short on data and fact, but also bats for privatisation of public resources.
In a letter to the state's Tourism Ministry, Fr. Freddy Braganca, Executive Director of the Centre for Responsible Tourism which functions under the aegis of the Goa Church, said that the policy which was cleared by the cabinet last month, ignored serious issues like environment degradation, sex tourism, easy availability of drugs, trafficking in women and children.
"The stated vision statement of having ahigh-spending tourists around the year' exhibits bankruptcy in thought. One wonders what is the concept and quantification of a high spender. Vague terms like world class need to be qualified.
"The vision needs to envisage a just and equitable tourism with 'people' as the focus," Fr. Braganca said in his letter to the Ministry, which also demands putting the policy on hold and restarting a consultation process with industry stakeholders.
"In the absence of a comprehensive development programme for people, very serious issues of environmental degradation, violation of Coastal Zone Regulations, cultural decay, sex tourism, easy availability of narcotics, child labour, child and women trafficking, alienation of communities from their lands have not been addressed," the letter said.
Fr. Braganca also suggests that the tourism policy has been based on faulty data and was therefore off the mark in its assessments related to several issues, including tourism footfalls in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Goa Tourism Policy 2020 lacks the basic empirical data on tourism in the state. It is devoid of the necessary realistic statistics of the number of tourists, both foreign and domestic who visit the state.
"This fact was confirmed when the number of foreign tourists evacuated by the state government in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, far exceeded the number registered with the government.A Furthermore, the policy fails to reflect the revenue generated and how much of the revenue is re-invested in the state," the letter added.
One of the key thrusts of Goa Tourism Policy 2020, was to make the coastal state one of the safest destinations in the country, to counter a nagging perception that tourists, especially foreigners, were unsafe.
The policy which has been put together by KPMG Advisory Services at a one-time cost of Rs 4.99 crore and Rs 8 lakhs a month for a period of five years, has also pitched for diversification of the state's bouquet of tourism offerings spread across 26 circuits, which includes promotion of Goa as a culture and heritage tourism destination, while pitching for investments for creation of infrastructure for wedding tourism as well as the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism segment.
The policy has however come under criticism by the Opposition, travel and tourism stakeholders groups and leading business associations in the state, which have urged Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to hold back its implementation and begin a renewed process of ground level consultation.