Photographers banned from Goa Beaches

If you have been to a Goa beach, you must have noticed the “freelance” photographers loitering on the beach, taking photographs of the tourists and locals and then trying to sell them back at Rs 50 to Rs 100 per photograph.

Thankfully, these photographers have now been banned by the Goa Tourism Department from disturbing the tourists. If caught, they face a huge penalty of Rs 10,000.

According to the Goa Tourism Department official, “There were lot of complaints against these photographers charging Rs 50-100 per picture. But the basic complaint against them was that they were loitering on the beaches without permission and disturbing the tourists,”.

However, these photographers not only are a nuisance to the tourists and local visitors alike, they are also a danger to the belongings of the tourists which are usually left on the beach while the tourists go into the water. 

It is time that we cleaned up our lovely beaches from illegal hawkers, vendors and photographers so that both the tourist and local visitors can enjoy their time on the beach without being disturbed.

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Goa churches to preserve historical artefacts

Slowly but surely, Goa is waking up to its rich Portuguese cultural heritage.

After years of lying in various Churches across Goa, Portuguese era artefacts will now be given a new lease of life by Archdiocese of Goa, which is even thinking of creating ‘museums in each of the churches’. Goa’s Catholic Church has decided that the Christian heritage artefacts need to be preserved by forming special heritage cells, that would be manned by experts.

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao recently told a gathering near Panaji that every parish (village level community) must take care of the age-old articles lying in the churches. This heritage needs to be “protected, preserved and conserved” in the form of museum, he said. “If needed it should be restored so that it can be passed on to the next generation,” Ferrao said.

The Archbishop of Goa has said that the “absence of (heritage) professionals could be disastrous for the protection and restoration of these artefacts.” “The church is not primarily a custodian of art and architecture. The mission of the church is fundamentally spiritual. A mighty outpouring of human artistic creativity entire to the glory and worship of God has resulted in the Church becoming, defacto, the custodian of immense treasure of culture and artistic heritage,” he added.

After decades of trying to underplay its Portuguese roots, the Catholic Church in Goa seems to be finally waking up and acknowledging its history and heritage.

Not only should these Portuguese era artefacts be used to make the Goan Catholics proud of their heritage, they should also be used to start an intercultural and interfaith dialogue with other cultures and religions based on mutual respect and admiration. By better understanding their own and other cultures, Goa’s multicultural population will be better equipped to live in peace and harmony with one another.

Ethical tourism important in Goa: Catholic Church

The tourism industry has received some advice from a most unlikely quarter – Goa’s Catholic Church!

With over 25 percent of the state’s population being Roman Catholic, the Catholic Church has a significant sway in Goa, which also attracts over 2.6 million tourists annually. But until now, it has remained silent on important economical issues such as tourism.

The Catholic Church claimed that it was only the rich and the powerful that were hiving off profits earned by Goa’s multi-million dollar tourism industry, leaving virtually nothing for the local inhabitants of the state. Speaking at an annual reception in the Bishop’s House, Archbishop of Goa Reverend Filipe Neri Ferrao said the State Government and the Goa Tourism Department needed to pursue “ethical and holistic” tourism initiatives.

“Our people seem to be systematically dispossessed by the powerful and the rich, who see their own profits as being of higher value than the people of the land,” Ferrao said.”Our anxiety stems from the fact that too few of benefits seem to percolate down to the genuine holders of rights over tourism, that is, the original inhabitants of our coastal areas where the bulk of tourism happens.”

Although falling short of suggesting “concrete technical guidelines” to make tourism sustainable, Ferrao said the tourism industry should not only consider economic, but also ethical issues.

Focusing on the common man, Ferrao said that the common man should be allowed to run “small businesses along the coast in order to compensate for their displacement”. At the moment, it is extremely difficult for a local person with no influence to start his own business. But if Goa’s tourism is to become sustainable in the long run, it must change this.

Truly sustainable tourism is tourism that benefits not only the guest but also a large portion of local society. Instead, it is only the large multinational hotel corporations such as Marriott, Taj and Leela that are making huge profits, with little of the economic boom trickling down to the local population. Few big hotels employ locals, preferring to bring in staff from bigger cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. In addition, foreign based hotel chains repatriate all their profits back to their home countries, leaving little money in the state.

It is only when the economic benefits of tourism benefit all, especially the small businessman, that tourism will be seen in a positive light. And this call by the Catholic Church is but the first step.

 

Goa to get 35 lakh tourists this year, says minister

There is good news for Goa’s tourism industry.

Tourist numbers in Goa are expected to swell to 35 lakh during the forthcoming season, state Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said Wednesday. The increase in tourist numbers is mainly due to the domestic tourists who have been visiting Goa. 

Annually, Goa attracts 22 lakh domestic visitors to its beaches and nightlife spots every year. Goa has already attracted over 16 lakh tourists and December would see the turnout double.

The minister has also predicted a rise of 50,000 in the number of foreign tourist arrivals this year to the 4.5 lakh foreign tourists who visit the state annually.

All in all, good news for an industry that is the basis for the livelihood of a large portion of the state’s population!

Visa On Arrival in Goa hopeful

There seems to be good news and bad news for the tourism industry in Goa. 

The good news is that the Indian government has decided to to ease restrictions on tourist visas that made a two-month gap between consecutive visits by foreign nationals to India mandatory. But while this is a step in the right direction, the bad news is that Goa still does not have the Visa On Arrival facility (VoA).

However, the tourism industry is hopeful that the India Government will finally heed Goa’s request to be allowed to issue Visas on Arrival (VoA). 

In my many years of experience in the tourism industry, the one thing that I have found to be most effective in increasing tourist visitors to a destination is by relaxing visa rules. Obama has understood this and as a result, the procedures to get a US visa have been drastically simplified. My mother got a 10 year US visa recently and even my sister easily got a US visa. 

Russia, on the other hand, still believes in making tourist visas as difficult to get. And that is one of the reasons why tourists prefer not to go to Russia. 

Goa, on the other hand, has been pressing for a simplified visa procedure for quite some time now.  

Nilesh Cabral, Chairman, Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC), has rightly described the decision to ease the two-month gap as a “good thing, a good step” but only the first step. Cabral said he is very happy that the Government of India has heeded the several requests from Goa government and the Goa tourism trade to ease the restriction. “Now, I hope they consider our request to enable Goa to issue VoA as that would be immensely beneficial to Goa tourism”.

And indeed it will. Travelling is difficult enough without having to go through the extra trouble of getting a visa. Thailand has understood this and offers Visas on Arrival for a number of countries. This is why Thailand is one of the most popular destinations worldwide. And the tourist numbers keep rising. 

Ralph de Souza, Spokesperson, Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), said that this will particularly help Goa to cater to the 80 per cent Finnish tourists who visit Goa. If we can issue visa on arrival in Goa, the sagging Scandinavian market will be revived. We were losing lots of British tourists who were long stayers in Goa. This segment of tourists will come back now,” Souza said.

Presently, visa on arrival is only issued in the four metros of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. This means that presently, if tourists want to avail of VoA, they have to come via Mumbai, which adds to their cost. This also works against direct charters landing in Goa. 

With the world economy down, India and Goa must try and do everything in their power to attract foreign tourists to the country. And a Visa on Arrival is one of the most effective means of doing so. The tourism industry in Goa provides livelihood to a large portion of the population and it is time that the Government did all it could to help this struggling industry. 

Not only should the Visa on Arrival facilitity be made available in Goa, the number of countries that are included should also be increased. While it is understandable that there are security concerns that need to be kept in mind, a balance between security and tourism must be found.