Goa’s tourism image needs to be rebuilt: Official

Panaji, June 19 (IANS) The image of Goa has taken a beating in the tourism circuits following the incidents of crimes against foreign female tourists and only a professional public relations agency can rectify the damage, a senior tourism trade official said Saturday.

Gaurish Dhond, the newly appointed president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), a reputed body of travel and tourism industry stakeholders, said the state needs to be proactive when it comes to putting damage control mechanisms in place.

‘A professional PR (public relations) agency to address this issue is the need of the hour. Goa’s image has taken a beating of late because of three negative instances that took place in the state,’ he said.

Dhond said stern and strict implementation of law and order and speedy justice would help in averting such instances in the future.

‘These (three) instances received worldwide publicity, putting the fair image of Goa into the shadows of grief. However, 2.5 million satisfied tourists who left the state after a happy and enjoyable holiday did not find any mention all,’ said Dhond, whose TTAG is representative of the nearly Rs.35,000 crore tourism and travel related investment in Goa over the last few decades.

One of the three incidents referred to by Dhond is the tragic homicide and body assault of British teenager Scarlett Keeling in 2008, which put Goa’s seedy underbelly under international media spotlight.

Lambasting the state government for not doing its job in preserving the natural beauty of Goa and on issues related to cleanliness and hygiene, Dhond said if things ‘go unchecked, it will render Goa as one of the ugliest states in the country’.

‘Another area of concern is the rapid degradation of the natural beauty of Goa, which is one of its unique selling points… It is a shame that we do not have a garbage processing plant till date and that the cities, coastal areas as well as our villages are strewn with stinking garbage, which is branding Goa as a dirty destination,’ Dhond said.

Goa, one of the most popular beach tourism destinations in the country attracts nearly 2.5 millions tourists annually, out of which half a million are foreigners.

After the Scarlett episode and a string of other crimes against foreign women tourists, Goa’s image has taken a severe beating as a safe tourism destination for women.

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