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Goa has wish list for 'its own' union tourism minister

By Ians English

Panaji, May 28: Struggling to stop Kerala, Sri Lanka and Thailand from weaning away tourists from Goa - one of India's best known beach tourism destinations - the tourism industry here has readied a wish list for Shripad Naik, the new union tourism minister and a Goa MP.

Speaking to IANS, Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) president Francisco de Braganca said absence of representation for the state in the union cabinet did not bode well for the state for several years now, with nobody to push its interest.

He also said Naik, with his exposure to tourism in Goa, could perhaps be the best person to handle the union tourism brief.

"The TTAG has over the years placed many issues before the central government, which went unheard as Goa had no representation," Braganca said.

Braganca, himself one of top hospitality industry leaders in the state, said Goa's list of requirements included modification of the charter flight regulations and starting direct international scheduled flights to and from Goa.

He also sought increased central funding for tourism infrastructure projects in the state, which has been facing a massive infrastructure crunch. The shortfalls include inadequate beach facilities, crowded roads, low quality power, etc.

"Being a Goan, he understands the tourism industry better and is best suited to do justice to the responsibility entrusted to him," Braganca said.

Speaking to IANS over phone from New Delhi, Naik said he would meet with the state's tourism industry stakeholders soon to chart out an action plan.

Naik also said he would expressly look into the demand of the travel industry to enable visa on arrival facilities to countries like the United Kingdom and Russia, which annually send the biggest contingents of foreign tourists to the state.

The travel and tourism industry claims that currently time-consuming visa processing facilities are proving to be a deterrent to foreign tourists from visiting Goa. The state is already facing competition domestically from Kerala and internationally from Sri Lanka and Thailand, which are also promoted as beach tourism destinations.

"I will be looking to speed up that request. It has been their demand for a long time," Naik said. Goa attracts over three million tourists annually, of whom half a million are foreign nationals.


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