In an exclusive conversation with Lifestyle Asia India, Rohan Khaunte, the Minister for Tourism and IT in the Government of Goa says that responsible tourism is the need of the hour.
The much-awaited Goa Carnaval and Shigmotsav festival dates were announced in a press conference conducted by the Ministry of Tourism, Goa, convened under Tourism Minister Mr Rohan Khaunte. During this press conference, the minister filled in the major details regarding the ever-vibrant folk festivals emerging from Konkani and Western-Christian roots growing back centuries, along with the state’s tourism plans.
The Goa Carnaval and Shigmotsav festival
This year, the Carnaval is set to commence from the 18th until the 21st of February and a curtain raiser on the 17th of February in Porvorim. The centres for the carnaval are Porvorim, Panaji, Margao, Vasco, Mapusa and Morjim.
The spectacular five-day festival of colours, the “Shigmotsav” or “Shigmo festival”, also regarded as Goa’s spring festival, is held in the villages of Goa every year. Famous temple “Yatras” take place during this time. This festival is celebrated in the month of Phalguna (March) from the 9th moon day to the full moon day as per the Hindu calendar. It is the biggest festival for the Hindus. To draw tourists, this festival is celebrated in several towns. Cities host processions that feature both contemporary floats and traditional Goan dancing. Best float decorators and performers in the procession receive awards.
However, Khaunte is looking towards a more responsible and sustainable form of tourism that doesn’t affect the delicate ecosystem of Goa. “In one line, I would say GOA stands for ‘golden opportunities available’,” he says, adding: “We have a long-term vision of getting the right tourists to Goa. It’s more about quality than quantity.”
Excerpts from our exclusive conversation with Goa’s Minister of Tourism
How do you intend to ensure responsible tourism in Goa?
When we talk about a safe and secure Goa, we need to ensure that the tourist who is coming in feels safe and secure and can move around without fear. At the same time, we want the tourists coming in to be quite responsible in whatever they are doing. Goa shouldn’t be looked at in terms of vices or as a sin city – getting drunk sometimes, consuming drugs somewhere. When we don’t even know where it is coming from. At the end of the day, the tourist having any issues here hits back on the tourism vertical of the state and since Goa is an international destination, it becomes global news for the wrong reasons. We need to have a sustainable approach because as we welcome more tourists, we need to ensure that they do not destroy the ethnic culture, tradition and authenticity that Goa holds.
Hence, since we are providing facilities for tourists to come and visit our state, we also expect them to be responsible and create a good tourism vertical.
Considering that the pandemic was such an uncertain period in people’s lives, have you seen them behaving more responsibly when they visit your state?
The mindset of a tourist has changed. They are thinking about more immersive experiences. They know what they want and I would call it ‘revenge tourism’. They want to do everything. So when they want to do everything, they can’t come to Goa and just do one thing and then go somewhere and do the rest of the stuff. Hence, we also need to make things available to them in a manner where they can come and maybe increase their stay wherein we create more options for them regarding ecotourism, wellness, and a sense of adventure. We are actively working on these verticals. A member of the Press enquired about the number of hotel rooms available during the carnival. Infrastructure for that is being made and we need to really work on this. Today, there are roughly 4542 hotels with different categories of rooms amounting to about 82,000. We have new labels coming and setting up shops in the state which will help the tourism vertical. We also exploring emerging markets for tourism.
Working on Goa as a state and working so closely with the people there, how has it changed personally?
I’m also a businessman and I’m also a politician. I’m a hotelier and I’m also a person interested in real estate. And we have always been with the masses. So it doesn’t allow us to think differently. We are getting to work on our idea of golden Goa which we envisioned during our college days and now we have been given the opportunity to work on that. We can work on what Goa strongly needed in terms of the governors that we need when we talk about our culture, tradition, and ethos, how we can protect it, how we can project Goa as a new thing and how we can make it a knowledge hub. So, there are a lot of things which we have in our mind and we are looking to deliver.
And are these things coming to fruition?
(smiles) They will, they will.