Goa turns focus to regenerative tourism; 11 sites identified for development, ET TravelWorld

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<p>Rohan Khaunte </p>
Rohan Khaunte

Goa is embarking on a significant shift towards regenerative tourism, aiming to redefine its tourism sector with a focus on environmental restoration, cultural preservation, and community empowerment. Rohan A. Khaunte, the state’s Tourism & IT Minister, unveiled this transformative model on the sixty-second anniversary of the Liberation of Goa, aligning the initiative with the values of the Manila Declaration of World Tourism of 1980 and the recent Goa roadmap for tourism culled out from a G20 ministers’ meeting.

Khaunte stressed the urgency for change in response to environmental challenges and societal imbalances, advocating for sustainable practices in travel and tourism. He highlighted the regenerative model’s four pillars: spirituality, indigeneity, civilisational and cultural nationalism, and conscious tourism. The overarching goal is to revitalise landscapes, revive cultural heritage, and empower local economies through community-centric, eco-friendly initiatives and sustainable infrastructure.

“In the face of environmental agility and societal imbalance, the call for change equals louder than ever. It’s a clarion call that beacons us to reevaluate our efforts to travel and tourism,” stated Khaunte, emphasising the need for a paradigm shift towards sustainability.

As a part of this model, the Ekadasha Teertha Campaign will be rolled out in the 11 places of worship in Goa. Ekadasha Teertha will include the spiritual sites to be decided by the Department of Tourism. The Minister said that the campaign will be put to fruition in consultation with the local communities and involving particularly women and youth, in exploring, understanding, and projecting the rich culture, cuisine, and lifestyles of Goa.

Additionally, he spoke about the benefits of introduction of the new tourism policy in 2020 which reflected a commitment to cultural immersion with the special emphasis on homestays, run by local families within communities, largely by women. Moreover, the new Homestay policy takes a dedicated stance on promoting women’s empowerment by actively endorsing their participation in managing these alternate accommodations. Offering incentives such as grants totaling up to INR 2 lakh rupees and considerations for utilities has played a crucial role in bolstering these initiatives as per Goa Tourism Minister.When questioned about how the government plans to guide travellers interested in embracing regenerative practices, the minister highlighted that the vision commences with the latter, signifying the initiation of a profound idea.

“The Ekadasha Teertha serves as the pivotal point to craft a fresh narrative. For instance, the domestic tourists opting for a 4-night stay in Goa, will be inclined to delve into the rich tapestry of its temples. International tourists, on the other hand, seek wellness, and this regenerative tourist circuit is designed to cater precisely to that need. Our aspiration today is for tourists to immerse themselves in all that Goa has to offer, encompassing sun, sand, sea, software, spirituality, and beyond,” Khaunte told ETTravelWorld, adding that the initial count of 11 temples is merely a starting point; additional sites will soon be earmarked.

Is Lakshadweep ready to become the new Maldives?

As the attention shifts to the West Coast archipelago in India with an evident uptick in Google search traffic, EMT pausing Maldives bookings and ixigo experiencing a 2900% spike in Lakshadweep travel searches, the crucial question arises: should we look at Lakshadweep as an alternative to Maldives? Sustainability experts say No.

Goa, already a trailblazer, has been inadvertently practicing regenerative tourism, added Khaunte. “When we talk about Goa, we talk about ease of doing business, recently rolled out homestay policy, caravan policy, shack policy, Yuva Tourism clubs and so much more– we have already started contributing in our own way to the environment, society, and economics,” the Minister stated.

Amidst the allure of Goa as a popular tourist destination, the Minister further acknowledged the critical juncture where conventional practices threaten the very beauty that attracts millions. “It’s time for a change. It’s time for a shift,” he declared. “The regenerative tourism model underscores a commitment not only to enjoy Goa’s splendour but also to leave a positive and lasting impact on its landscapes, communities, and cultures.”

Initiatives to protect pristine beaches, rejuvenate coastal ecosystems, engage local communities, and promote festivals are already underway, he informed, adding that sustainable agricultural practices, the revitalization of ancient art forms, and support for local artisans are a few other steps under progress.

Speaking during the presentation on regenerative model vision that will run for 36 months, Suneel Anchipaka, IAS Director, Tourism & Managing Director, GTDC said the key is to develop mutual respect and appreciation between the visitors and the hosts. “We are in advanced talks with entrepreneurs and innovators in the tourism sector to help local women and youth get first-hand experience on becoming commercial partners in the Ekadasha Teertha endeavour,” he informed.

He added that Goa has set its sights on innovative solutions post-COVID, especially after analysing the unique challenges, including competition from countries like Thailand and Indonesia, modern cities like Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, and large Indian states. He also said that Goa is transitioning from a sea-shore centric tourism model to a more inclusive, people-centric approach.

Concluding on a positive note, Khaunte invited the travellers to be part of the journey, urging them to explore Goa responsibly and leave footprints of positive impact. “Let us embark on this collective effort to ensure that these destinations remain a haven for generations to come. Let’s put back more than we can take out,” he reiterated.

  • Published On Jan 11, 2024 at 11:00 AM IST

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