Goa to become the next educational Hub

“Goa has the potential to be a prime education hub and should be known as the ‘Boston of India’. The State has the right mix of stakeholders who can enable this change,” said Bharat Vir Wanchoo, Governor of Goa. Speaking at the first Higher Education Summit organised by CII in association with the State Government, Goa’s Governor also emphasised the need for training and up scaling most faculties.

Eager to push the stakeholders out of their comfort zone, Shrinivas Dempo of Dempo Education Trust emphasised the need for improving research facility in the colleges and universities. Other speakers mentioned the dire need to revise the curriculum in most courses as it had been left unrevised for about 30 years. Academic autonomy was termed another important factor.

“Goa needs to develop an empowered cluster of autonomous colleges to improve its higher education system. Colleges can be given the power to recognize industry-linked training provided to students while undergoing a course. This will enable students to go out of the colleges becoming more employable. To give these powers to the university, the Goa Universitys Act will have to be revisited,” Nigavekar told Goa education officials.Former chairperson of University Grants Commission ( UGC) Arun Nigavekar interacted with education officials during his recent visit to Goa and has suggested that the state should prepare a cluster of autonomous colleges to improve delivery of higher education. The state government is considering Nigavekar’s suggestion of setting up a Goa higher education development corporation.

As one of the stakeholders, The Mitaroy Goa Heritage Homestay in Fontainhas, Panjim has been at the forefront of trying to promote education in the state, especially in the important area of tourism education. While tourism is one of the biggest sectors in the Goan economy, there are few schools and colleges that cater to tourism students. Most students are forced to study outside the state or lose out to better qualified graduates from other cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai or Delhi.

I have always believed that Goa needed to improve and expand its current tourism education offer. The tourism education sector in Goa needs to cater to three main segments:

1. Unskilled workers / students – This segment consists usually of school drop outs or low and unskilled workers who would like to work in the tourism industry. For this segment, basic courses such as ITI or 6 month courses in housekeeping, cooking and service are needed. Goa’s tourism industry has a huge requirement for low skilled workers for jobs in housekeeping, cooking and service.

2. Management cadre – The second most needed segment is that of management cadre. Special hotel management schools need to be set up in Goa to train highly educated students to manage hotels and other tourist businesses. Subjects such as hotel management, destination marketing and eTourism should be taught in these schools and colleges.

3. Tourism Researchers – Last but not least, there is a great requirement for academics and researchers in the field of tourism in Goa. As a PhD student myself, I am quite surprised at the lack of research conducted into the Goan Tourism field. Goa Tourism needs researchers and research scholars studying and working at Universities in Goa to put forth suggestions and recommendations based on scientific research that will help improve Goan Tourism.

It is time that the Goa Government and Goa’s Tourism Department sat together with the stakeholders in the tourism industry to chalk out a Tourism Education Masterplan for the next 20 years. Only then will Goan Tourism not only survive but prosper.


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!

Mandovi Cruise Boat Owners in Panaji unite

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/captured_by_badri/2515311271/sizes/z/

While most foreign tourists from the UK and Europe prefer a tuk-tuk ride, Indian tourists to Goa simply must go on a Mandovi Cruise atleast once during their Goa holiday. 

The Mandovi Cruise Boat jetty is a 5 minute walk from my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay in Fontainhas, Panaji’s Latin Quarter, and I used to often take a walk in the evening to the jetty to watch the tourists as they waited eagerly to board the Mandovi Cruise Boats for their evening entertainment. 

However, as is often the case in areas with high tourist demand, touts – so called “agents” – were duping the innocent tourists and harassing them. 

In order to weed out these touts and make the experience more pleasant for tourists, Mandovi Cruise boat operators in Panaji have now decided to unite under one banner to streamline the Mandovi Cruise business that attracts over 3,000 tourists each day.

In one of the biggest changes to their business on the Mandovi river since they started out in 1984, the Mandovi cruise boat operators have decided to introduce single window system for ticketing as well as streamlining the entertainment services offered on their Mandovi Cruise Boats. The state-run Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) has done great work in bringing all the Mandovi Cruise boat operators under one banner by doing away with their separate ticket counters and operating from a single window.

As a result, tourists will now be able to easily purchase tickets for the Mandovi Cruise Boats at one single window, thus reducing the commotion and confusion that usually ensued. I remember watching the mad rush by touts and Mandovi Cruise Boat operators alike.

Now that the boats will leave the jetty at regular intervals, thus cooperating and not competing against one another, the rush to attract tourists will also be a thing of the past. 

Any move to simplify the life of the Goan tourist can only be welcomed wholeheartedly. Tourism Minister Deepak Parulekar must be congratulated on his efforts to streamline and simplify the processes that tourists were faced with in purchasing tickets for the Mandovi Cruise Boats.

Have you purchased a ticket in the new single window ? Do let me know about your experience in the comments… 

Hike in Goa Monsoon Tourism

Photo Credit: http://www.parrikar.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/chorlaghat.jpg

The jury still seems to be out on whether a Goa Monsoon Holiday is a good idea or not. 

But as Goa Tourism Department statistics show, Goa registered a 6.5% growth in monsoon tourism from June 2012 to September 2012 as compared to the same period last year. While Goa welcomed 3.8 lakh visitors during the Goa Monsoon in 2011, this year Goa received 4.05 lakh tourists – an increase of over 24,000 tourists. Both these figures were for foreign and domestic tourists. But it was the foreign tourists that made the big difference. While  Goa had 5,938 foreign visitors in September 2011, it saw 16,141 foreign tourists visiting Goa in September 2012. That meant a whopping increase of nearly 60%. 

In the type of tourists, MICE tourists were fewer this monsoon season but were replaced by a sizeable increase in FITs (free and independent travelers), families and young couples.

To entice tourists to visit Goa in the monsoon, hoteliers offered special monsoon discounts and discounted monsoon packages that included accommodation as well as  other freebies including airport transfers, free half-day sightseeing tours to Old Goa including the UNESCO Heritage Zone of the Basilica of St Francis Xavier, boat cruises on the Mandovi river and other goodies. 

It is the nature of the monsoon in Goa that makes visiting Goa during this period such a difficult decision to make. The monsoon in Goa is much harsher than in other places, especially the UK and Europe. What the West calls rain is merely a light drizzle for a Goan. When the monsoon comes in all its fury, the rain lashes down for days and months on end. It rains down so hard that the pressure of the raindrops can be quite unnerving sometimes. Hence, for long, tourists avoided Goa in the monsoons like the plague. 

However, soon tourists (both Indian and foreign) realised that one could enjoy the monsoon in Goa if one came prepared. Strong umbrellas, shorts and slippers made the monsoon in Goa much easier to bear. Plus, smart tourists realised that they could get great deals from hotels in the monsoon. However, it was not just the price that attracted more and more tourists to Goa during the monsoon. 

Some tourists like the French had no other choice, with their holidays coinciding exactly with the Goan Monsoon. So they made the best of their time there, walking about coolly under their umbrellas. 

Others, like my Dad, loved the Goan Monsoon because it meant that Goa did not have as many tourists as the rest of the year. The tourists that did come were able to enjoy Goa to the fullest, without being rushed by the usual crowds that Goa sees. 

Another reason was of course, that apart from July and half of August, it did not rain the whole time in Goa. After the showers stopped, Goa showed itself in all its beauty with the green fields greener than ever and all nature basking in a washed, clean look that forced one to stop and watch in awe.