Centre to offer Rs 25 cr to Goa for Old Goa heritage project

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Panaji, Aug 8 (UNI) The Centre is ready to offer Rs 25 crore assistance to Goa for the proposed mega project for comprehensive development of the world heritage structures in Old Goa, once the capital of the colonial Portuguese regime.

Disclosing this while addressing the ''Goa Tourism Meet-2008'' here today, Sujata Thakur, regional director of India Tourism, Government of India, said the assiatance could be extended provided the state government came out with concrete proposals for the development and conservation of the world heritage monuments in Old Goa.

It may be recalled that the state government had embarked on developing a master plan for developing and conserving the world heritage monuments in Old Goa recently following the threat of ''delisting'' of the monuments by the UNESCO that affects tourism projects of the site.

She also said India Tourism department had come out with a joint advertisement campaign with States and private partners for promoting ''state-specific and product specific'' campaigns soon.

As part of promoting Goa in coming October this year, Ms Thakur said the Centre had decided to open tourist information counter in the Mumbai office.

With several global campaigns launched in the West under the ''Incredible India'' series particularly in the USA, Singapore and Germany, the country started yielding results with encouraging inflow of tourists.

Tourism in India has been witnessing 14 per cent growth every year. The hospitality sector should shun overpricing and gear itself up to meet the challenge on par with the counterparts abroad through offer of attractive and competitive packages, she said.

The states, particularly Goa, should diversify into other tourism products such as medical, spice, ecotourism, hinterland and adventure tourism besides upgrading the infrastructure to meet the galloping demand, she said.

The site is dotted with several monuments, including churches and museums, of the Portuguese era. The most attractive being Se Cathedral and Basilica of Bom Jesus Church, where relics of Saint Xavier, patron saint of Goa, are preserved in a relic casket.

Another attraction for world tourists, including the Catholic Christian pilgrims, is the St Augustine Tower, now under renovation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), where the researchers had found the purported sacred relics of St Queen Catherina of Georgia.

Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) president Nitin Kunkolienkar pleaded for developing infrastrucure besides exploring the untapped potential into hinterland tourism as Goa has more than 35 per cent forest cover and biodiversity hot spots.

Three technical sessions that followed discussed ''Greening of Goa'' presented by Sultana Kazi of Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), ''Archaeology and Heritage Tourism'' by ASI chief N Tahir and ''Trends in Toirism'' by Nick Israel, General Manager of The Indian Hotels Company Limited.

The participants including Travel and Tourism Association of Goa chief Ralph De Sousa favoured rationalisation of tax structure so that the sector could become competitive along with other countries particularly the South East Asian countries.

They also suggtested efforts for strengtening of the tourism infrastructure in a big way to promote tourism.

UNI BM SSS SY UCS2218

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