Diversification from beaches on anvil

| 22 August 2000 22:32 IST

Goa, an international tourist destination known for its golden beaches and idyllic palm-fringed coastal belt, is planning to move into six different directions in order to diversify its focus from the beach tourism.

In order to reduce pressure on Goan beaches, the state is planning to exploit its natural beauty in the hinterland and the great historical heritage it carries by exploring Eco-tourism, Heritage tourism, Adventure tourism, Rural tourism, Business tourism and Science tourism.

A study conducted by Delhi-based Consulting Engineering Services (India) Ltd, who is preparing the tourism master plan for the state, reveals that above 35 to 45 per cent domestic tourists as well as 20 per cent foreign tourists also try and visit hill side, heritage places, forests and wild life in Goa, though over 60 per cent come to enjoy only the beaches.

"Tourism activities (along the coastal belt) have led to exploitation of natural resources like air, water, sandy beaches etc with a resultant degree of pollution, which pose the risk of producing ecological and physical imbalance, if not curbed in time", states the report.

Though application of modern technology could minimise the likely negative impacts, the CES feels it more prudent to think of a solution for sustainable tourism. It thus suggests to declare it as 'Controlled Tourism Zone' by consolidating the existing traffic rather than allowing further hotel constructions.

The Eco-tourism proposal includes wildlife observation, trekking, bird watching and study tours on botany and zoology. In order to promote Science tourism, the interim report on master plan suggests making use of the National Institute of Oceanography as well as setting up of Technological Park to attract students with a scientific bend.

Exploiting its history of Goa being the seat of 16th century-old Portuguese churches, it suggests Heritage tourism by conducting guiding tours of churches besides temples, forts as well as arts and cultural events in a much more organised manner than what is being practised presently.

The proposal of Adventure tourism primarily caters to adventure sports like scuba diving, snorkelling, paragliding, parasailing, yachting, river rafting, trekking and even sea surfing, as their survey reveals that majority of domestic and foreign tourists favour such activities.

Realising that Goa is fast emerging as a place for business conference, seminars and conventions, the CES has suggested to develop it for Business tourism, targeting office executives, CEOs and business tycoons. On the lines of Singapore experience, it suggests new themes like sea-cruise and convention centre, especially during monsoons.

As many foreign tourists (and even Indians) like to personally experience the ethnic village life, suggestion has also been made to evolve a new concept of Rural tourism by developing Theme Villages like fisheries village or handicraft village, which could project its ethnic lifestyle, day-to-day activities, cultural events and food habits.

The interim report on master plan also discusses strategies to be adopted to innovatively package the six sectors. One among it is to declare Special Tourism Area in order to draw attention of private developers by formulating suitable tax incentives and private sector funding.

The report obviously also suggests speedy development of infrastructure like roads, water supply, sanitation, power and telecommunication facilities for connecting new areas with existing major urban nodes and transport hubs, besides evolving exclusive marketing strategies to promote these areas.

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