The state’s main income source is considered to be the Tourism Industry of Goa, and we can say that around 75% of the locals depend on the business that comes from the tourists coming to Goa. The Hotels, Guest Houses, Restaurants, and Shacks survive majorly on the tourism industry, and hence the healthy tourism industry is the need of a day. Department of Tourism is working towards the improvement of this sector, but the main organisation that looks after the day to day development of the tourism business in Goa is the GTDC (Goa Tourism Development Corporation), and the human powerhouse who runs this corporation is the Managing Director of GTDC Mr. Nikhil Desai.
It may not be an exaggeration that Nikhil is responsible for many developments that took place in the Goa Tourism Development Corporation. He is a person of full of ideas and believes in swift implementation of the same. In fact Nikhil took over as the MD of Goa Tourism with one goal in mind, and that was the complete facelift of Goa’s Tourism industry, and in fact, from the time Mr. Desai has taken over the GTDC as MD, there has been tremendous development in the various sections including the internal staff and their working style which was completely reformed. GTDC, which once looked like a government office, now has a fresh look of a corporate office, and according to me, all the credit goes to Mr. Nikhil Desai.
When I met Nikhil to talk to him about the developments taking place in the tourism sector of Goa and future plans, my first question to him was, why is the tourist inflow in the state has gone down? And he immediately defended saying that this information completely wrong and in fact, the tourism in Goa has been booming since past few years. “I am sure that you have received the wrong information from the wrong sources, I suggest you to please check the reliable source like Incredible India, and you will be able to see that tourists have doubled from 2.6 million in 2013 to 6 million in 2016,” said Nikhil adding that “The fact is someone trying to feed in the wrong information, and I would call it a glorious misrepresentation of the facts.”
According to Nikhil, the figure would even become more considering the tourists who are not staying in hotels, but they come down to Goa, and stay in Guest houses, shacks or even with their relatives, which is not taken into the consideration. “But despite this, if people are saying that there are no tourists, then only one thing I would like to mention here is, every week cannot be a super week at all. There are times when there will be fewer people on the streets, there are exams going on, and in such case how people will come to enjoy? There are people who may say tourism is bad, looking at one week’s flow, which is not correct,” said Mr. Desai.
Mr. Desai feels that there is a huge demand for the accommodation compared to what is available at the moment in the state. “Please take a look at the star hotels, you do not get the accommodations, as all the hotels are full. This proves that the tourism industry in the state is booming,” he said, and when I asked about the Russian inflow which is increasing in the state, and due to which the tourists from European countries are decreasing, he said that there is a 7 percent increase in the inflow of European tourists into the state. Goa Tourism season in 2016 has seen a 19.5 per cent growth in tourist arrivals. “If you look into past records and compare it with the data of the last four to five years, there is a steady growth in tourist arrivals from both the domestic and foreign segments. In 2014 we had 40.58 lakh tourists, in 2015 we had 52.97 tourist arrivals, and in 2016 we had 63.30 lakh tourist arrivals. So there is no question of a drop in tourist arrivals to Goa,” he narrated.
According to Nikhil, there is also a big growth in the domestic tourist’s arrivals in the state. “As far as domestic tourist arrivals are concerned, in 2014 it was 35.44 lakh, in 2015 it was 47.56 lakh, and in 2016 it was 56.50 lakh tourists,” he said adding that, “According to me, the domestic tourists have made Goa as their most preferred holiday destination. We have also gained recognition as the best destination for the women travelers, as a nightlife destination and a lot more. Foreign tourists are not far behind, they too visit Goa to experience its seasons, both in peak time as well as off season. Our festivals, cuisine, culture, medical facilities, Yoga, and spas are a big draw for foreign tourists. Goa also has a lot of adventure activities to offer to tourists, and all this has gone a long way, not only attracting tourists but also encouraging them to take long duration holidays in the State.”
When I asked Nikhil about the deteriorating condition of the tourist’s taxi service in the state, he said, “Taxi operation is not our business, and it is regulated by the transport department, but still I have taken up this issue with them on several occasions, and you must be aware that TTAG has also filed a petition in the high court in this regards. We have zero control on the taxi issue. But I also agree and this issue needs to be addressed and, the government is doing their job.”
On the Hot Air Balloon issue, Nikhil said that there is nothing wrong on the part of hot air balloon, and all the trips are going very successful. The rumors which are spread in the social media are just the work of WhatsApp generation which is completely misrepresented. “The hot air balloon operations started in 2015 and is in the second year of operations. The season 2016-17 has been very encouraging, and the agency operating this service has received an overwhelming response. Envious of this, certain lobbies have been trying to malign the image of this service by misreporting the facts. Nonetheless, this has not affected the service in any way. In fact, it has increased the demand, and it is not very easy now to get a hot air balloon ride without prior bookings. The hot air balloon is the second most successful adventure activity after white water rafting in Goa, and we are confident that it will do very well in the months to come,” said Mr. Nikhil.
I also tried to elaborate on the issue of foreign trips by the former tourism minister and asked Mr. Nikhil about the results of the same. According to him, the foreign trips are essential to boost the tourism in the state. “The foreign trips are absolutely needed for promotion of any destination, forget about Goa, and check the small states like Orissa and Karnataka, though they do not get the foreign tourists as much as Goa, but they have gone far ahead of us in the tourism promotions, and hence, if we do not participate in the exhibitions and road shows abroad then all the tourists will be taken by the countries like Srilanka, Thailand and Malaysia, who are competing for the same market,” he narrated.
Mr. Nikhil also put the light on the non-participation of the GoaTourism in ITB Berlin 2017. “Our absence at this prestigious international travel event was criticized severely by tourism stakeholders. Other tourism boards stole the limelight and all the business at that event. This itself shows that there is a need for Goa Tourism to attend such key international travel fairs and exhibitions. We generally participate in international fairs and exhibitions held in London, Berlin, Dubai, Moscow, and hold the road shows in the adjoining regions. Our presence at such foreign events and road shows enables us to market and promote Goa extensively. Our stakeholders get an opportunity to engage in B2B. We also organize a Goa evening, interact with the media, travel and trade operators, and disseminate literature, CDs, brochures, and lot more. All these efforts are helping us attract tourists to Goa and adding up to the numbers. Reaching the six million mark in tourist arrivals is the success from all the aggressive marketing and promotion that Goa Tourism has engaged in at all international events.”
On the multi-level pay parking project, Mr. Nikhil said that it was planned with the whole purpose of decongesting of traffic in the city. “The Multi Level Car Parking project was planned with the whole purpose of decongesting the capital city, and providing adequate parking facilities for tourists visiting Panjim, and for attending cruise boat rides at the Santa Monica Jetty. It is a new project, and one cannot expect immediate results. It is a signature project undertaken by Goa Tourism Development Corporation, the first of its kind in Goa, and in the years to come it will prove to be a very successful project,” said Mr. Desai with complete confidence.
About the future plans of GTDC to improve the tourism sector of Goa, Mr. Nikhil said that they are working on the various projects such as, building the infrastructure for tourism services, building the new parking lots, building new toilets and installing the CCTV cameras at various tourist locations. “We are also working on having the proper drinking water facilities for the tourists coming down to the state, and easing the safety and security of the tourists in the beach belts are the part of our future plans,” he said.
According to Nikhil, Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) is India’s premier and prestigious Tourism Board which is working aggressively towards giving the much-needed boost to the tourism industry in Goa. “According to me, It has achieved an enormous success in this direction and wants to improve, innovate with every passing year. Having started out with managing accommodation facilities, the GTDC today has entrepreneurs on board who have started tourism initiatives in association with GTDC and are doing extremely well. Besides the adventure tourism initiatives, we have our own interactive website, e-commerce portal and mobile app which is the first of its kind for any tourism board in India.
The GTDC is also the Special Purpose Vehicle for tourism infrastructure development projects. During the last four years, the large number of projects have been undertaken and completed by GTDC. Many are in progress, a large number of new projects are on the anvil. A mega ropeway project, tourist facilities on the beaches, development of Central Jail Aguada into a museum and much more are projects which will change the face of tourism in Goa,” said Mr. Desai.
Praising the ruling government Mr. Desai said that, Government is a continuous process, and in the present scenario, there is a continuation of the government, which has always been very supportive towards the tourism industry of Goa. “Be it projects and policies, finance or approvals. It is the same government under which tourism industry has grown and flourished. The State of Goa received huge funding under various Central schemes, the most recent being the Swadesh Darshan scheme to the tune of Rs 99.99 crore. We are expecting more funds under this scheme for developing various tourism circuits. The new Minister for Tourism, Mr. Manohar Azgaonkar also has mega plans for tourism development, and we will see newer plans and projects unfold shortly,” he added.
I am sure that under the able leadership of Mr. Desai Goa Tourism will see more improvements and enhancement in the future, and Incredible Goa team wishes all the best to one of the most dynamic MD of GTDC.