|Friday, May 2, 2008 (Panaji).
Goa's infrastructure is beginning to crumble under the load of visitors,
says the tourism industry that has called for an immediate upgrade of facilities.
The state, which has a population
of 1.4 million, receives some 2.5 million tourists each year. Of this,
between 300,000 and 400,000 are foreigners, mainly from Europe.
''We cannot indefinitely
push for more tourists. Our infrastructure is not sufficient, and it needs
an upgrade,'' said Ralph de Souza, president of the Travel & Tourism
Association of Goa (TTAG) who is from the locally prominent de Souza hoteliers
TTAG believes Goa's lone
Dabolim Airport urgently needs ''expansion and modernisation'', including
area for its arrival lounge, proper conveyor belts, and parking bays for
Dabolim Airport is controlled
by the Indian Navy, prompting industry and politicians to say it is badly
''A few years ago, Dabolim
got half-a-dozen flights a day. Today there are over 40 flights daily,
plus international flights, charter flights, and naval flights,'' said
Parking bays are insufficient,
and parallel taxi bays are needed, he added. A new proposed airport would
take ''at least eight to 10 years'' to commence operations, he added.
''The staff has smiling faces
(at the airport), but physically the building is old and not sufficient
for the growing number of tourists,'' said Abdullah Cankaya, deputy general
director of the Moscow-based Pegas Touristik.
Goa's TTAG tourism lobby
has pushed for visas-on-arrival, especially for British, Russian and Scandinavian
tourists who form the bulk of the foreign market here
Garbage is growing all round
in Goa, a destination whose earlier USP used to be cleanliness. The tourism
boom is itself probably contributing to the garbage woes.
Even the tourism trade is
keen to replace plastic bottles with glass ones, and this - which requires
some extra investment - could reduce 30 percent of Goa's plastic load,
de Souza argued.
''Nobody takes garbage seriously
as a problem of their own,'' said Majorda Beach Resort vice president Chandrakant
S. Sangawar, also vice-president, TTAG (South Goa).
Tourism sector stakeholders
blame the ''exorbitant taxes'', the devalued dollar and Indian inflation
for the hotels here being uncompetitive against destinations in Southeast
Asia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Egypt, the West Indies, or even African destinations