With an am to chart out projects and initiatives for Goa Tourism, the recently appointed minister of state (MoS) for tourism (independent charge) and culture (independent charge), Government of India, Shripad Naik was in Goa to meet the state's chief minister Manohar Parrikar and tourism minister, Government of Goa, Dilip Parulekar. Naik, a BJP MP from North Goa who is a part of the cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, emphasised that world-class facilities would pave the way forward for tourism in the state. “The tourism map for Goa will be employment-centric to strengthen the tourism sector of Goa,” he said. One of the top most priorities on the agenda would be liberalisation of e-visa which will help attract more tourists. Currently, Goa offers Visa on Arrival facility to only 12 countries. E-visa facilities will cover larger number of countries. Naik said, “We have made a proposal of issuing e-visas for foreign tourists. If we liberalise the visa system for foreign tourists, it will help boost tourism in the country.”
On improving the connectivity to Goa, the minister mentioned that the union railway ministry would be approached for starting a fast train from Mumbai to Goa. “We would also initiate the proposal for a luxury train on the lines of Palace on Wheels; this will help attract more high-end tourists into the state,” he informed. This train will also have provision for middle-class passengers.
The St. Francis Xavier Exposition which is scheduled to take place in Goa during December is one of the landmark events that attracts large number of tourists to the state. When asked whether Pope Francis would grace the occasion, Naik responded by saying “The union ministry of external affairs would be approached to invite the Pope for this event.” During the meeting it was decided to turn this event into a milestone in religious tourism.
In addition, Naik revealed that projects to develop hinterland tourism, agro tourism and beach cleaning will be taken up. A new cruise terminal at Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), Vasco has also been proposed.
“We would like to boost tourism in Goa with high quality infrastructure and also by increasing job opportunities through tourism. This will put us on par with any other international destination,” he remarked.