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May 24, 2000
The Rediff Business Special/Sandesh Prabhudesai
Goa scripts plan to attract tourists during monsoons
Goa! The very name conjures up images of fun, fish and feni (a local wine), not mention bright sunny days and vast expanses of golden sand. And now, this Indian state plans to 'sell' raindrops to nature-loving tourists from June.
The Goa government has sketched a blueprint to promote 'hinterland and raindrop tourism' to attract more domestic tourists, besides contemplating schemes for environmental upgradation of coastal areas.
State Tourism Minister Victoria Fernandes said that the thrust so far had been on 'beach tourism', as beach, sand and sun are among the major attractions of Goa, particularly for foreign tourists. "However, besides beaches, there are many other things which Goa can offer," she said. "The off-season is an excellent time for peace-loving persons to visit Goa and enjoy a memorable stay," she said.
Stating that her department planned to develop many sites, which are worth visiting, the minister said the hinterland could be the ideal place for family tourism. The department also proposes to provide facilities for adventure sports, fishing, boating and rock-climbing at these places.
Throwing light on the proposal to re-introduce 'raindrop tourism', Fernandes said that the aim was to attract domestic tourists from states where rainfall is very less, during the rainy season in Goa, by offering them special off-season packages. This will help increase occupancy in hotels and other places having tourist accommodation, both in government and private sector, during this period, she added.
Fernandes said the success of this scheme would also prove a boon to tourism industry's scores of temporary employees, who were normally asked to leave jobs during the off-season.
Though Goa falls under the heavy rainfall zone -- recording around 270 cms of rainfall annually compared to the national average of 88 cms -- continuous downpours are witnessed only in June and July. The months of August and September have gentle drizzles, with the sun playing hide and seek among the clouds.
"The temperature in Goa is tolerable for any person from any part of the world during monsoons, said S R Bajpai, director of the observatory in Goa.
The state focusses exclusively on 'beach tourism' almost throughout the year. But, the period from June to September is called the 'off- season'. Thus, it's not surprising to find that in the last six years Goa has recorded only around 26 per cent domestic tourists and barely 8 per cent foreigners during the off-season.
There's a bonanza in terms of discounts awaiting the off-season tourist. Hotels and restaurants slash their prices during monsoons, while taxi fares too are much lower. The tourism department has also decided to encourage hoteliers to announce special monsoon packages.
Actually, the plan is not new. The idea to sell raindrops was floated way back in 1986, with advertisements all over India abroad to attract tourists during the slack season. "However, as we recorded only 10 per cent occupancy during this period, we had no option but to put an end to the scheme by 1990," said S S Keshkamat, the state tourism director.
"Also the scheme could not continue due to some practical problems pertaining to sharing of advertisement costs between the state government, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation, or GTDC, and the players in the private sector. But the occupancy, which was normally 25 per cent of the total bed capacity during off season, had increased to 45 per cent after raindrop tourism scheme was introduced in the mid-eighties, said Fernandes.
"Our prime focus would be on green tourism and indoor amusement," says Fernandes. She has even chalked out long-term plans for promoting indoor games like skating, bowling, go-karting, etc.
But what is being offered from the next month is trips to Dudhsagar waterfalls. and visits to forest-clad spots like sanctuaries of Bondla and Cotigao. Treks to places like Tambdi Surla and Farmagudi, and a cruise on the Mandovi river in Panaji are also on cards.
The plan is to promote even the local feasts like Sao Joao held on 24 June and the Bonderam feast on Divar island across Old Goa held annually in August.
The tourism department also plans to arrange special cultural programmes of Goan traditional folk on every Saturday at the Kala Academy complex in Panaji, especially for the tourists.
Though the 'raindrops' would be now promoted world-wide, Keshkamat hopes that the immediate tourist inflow is expected from India, mainly from Gujarat, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Delhi and other north Indian states.
The minister said the state government would come up with a concrete scheme after closely monitoring this year's trend of tourist flow during the off-season period of July to September. Stressing the need for intensive efforts for environmental upgradation of coastal areas, she said sewage was a very serious problem being faced by the coastal belt. Any laxity in tackling this problem could prove detrimental, she added.
She said a Rs 1.96-billion plan for improvement of environment of coastal areas, which includes development of roads, water supply and sewage facilities, had been prepared. "The state government is now trying to get funds from the World Bank or other such agencies," she said.
Referring to the proposal to construct a Paryatan Bhawan (a tourist complex) at an estimated cost of Rs 600 million near the state capital, Fernandes said it would house information centres of all states. besides, there will be a handicraft emporium, banks, foreign exchange counters and all other facilities required for tourists.
The minister said during her recent visit to Delhi she had discussed with Union Minister for Tourism Ananth Kumar a proposal to establish in the state a permanent exhibition ground, on the lines of New Delhi's Pragati Maidan. She said this project could cost an estimated Rs 500 million.
Fernandes said that the state tourism department would soon have a Web site and facilities for on-line booking would also be introduced.
(With inputs from UNI)
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