The pandemic seems to have forced Goa Tourism to do some house-cleaning and re-look at tackling short and long-term issues such as curbing illegal hotels and improving data collection that follows a faulty system and pegs the number of arrivals in the state approximately 20 per cent short of actual numbers.
Menino D’souza, Director, Department of Tourism, Government of Goa, said during a recent webinar that his department will be looking at tackling fundamental issues both in the short term and long term. “One good thing that is coming out of COVID-19 that we will also adopt for the future is making pre-bookings of hotels mandatory for tourists entering the state. We are looking at maintaining this system to curb mass tourism that Goa is attracting. Only persons having booking will be allowed to enter the state,” he said.
D’souza also brought the issue of collecting statistics. “Currently, we don’t have an accurate data for tourist numbers. The process we are following now is not correct. According to that, we have 80 lakh tourists coming to Goa every year. But we commissioned a survey with KPMG which shows that data is not captured at certain entry points. Even where data is captured, it is not accurate. So we are trying to put in place a correct system to capture all and complete data. Figures show that we receive more than a crore of tourists into Goa. So we are putting a new software in place to resolve this,” he shared. He added that Goa will also look at re-orienting its promotion and marketing strategy with more focus on developing hinterland tourism rather than its beaches.
Underlining the need to curb illegal businesses, D’souza said that his department has proposed an amendment to make the process of registering easier. “We need to protect our brand and profits need to seep down. But if demand is not met legally, it is met illegally and rightful businesses suffer. Illegal hotels are also a security risk as well as dent the state treasury. We have now proposed to have only two to three NOCs for hotels. Once this amendment has been approved by the government, within a month maybe, it will be put into practice. This will surely plug the loophole. Talking about aggregators, all OTAs have to register with us and enlist only registered hotels,” he explained.
Agreeing to this point was Serafino Cota, President, Small & Medium Hotels Associations. He said, “There is a huge issue of illegal hotels in Goa. They are not registered and all that revenue is lost. It is a very high number and it includes illegal beach shacks. We suggest the tourism department to come up with a policy for homestays that have four or more rooms with the owner staying there. They also need to be registered with Goa Tourism as it is very expensive to set up even a small hotel. Such illegal hotels cause a huge leakage in the system of more than 70 per cent or more revenue.” Cota also requested D’souza to update the Goa website and make it like a directory of hotels. It is currently very basic with very old, with inaccurate information.
Hotels reopen in Goa
More than 260 hotels that had applied for permission to re-open are now operational in Goa and are listed on the Goa Tourism website. Tourists entering the state must get a COVID-19 negative certificate issued by Indian Council of Medical Research 48 hours prior, or submit themselves to test once they land in Goa until results are out. Until then, they will be kept in isolation at their hotel.