New Year's Eve draws Mumbaikars to Goa and as hordes descend on the go-to destination, tourism minister Dilip Parulekar discusses intercity transport, security, casinos and rolling the dice with Joseph Zuzarte
Q. During peak season, taxi unions hike fares up to five times and threaten those opting to hire self-driven
cars. When will intercity transport be streamlined?
A. There is some confusion in south Goa with some private tourist taxi owners creating problems. We want to streamline the transport service. If problems are created, we take action. Also, we are trying to sort issues through talks with taxi owners, hoteliers and cops.
Q. Why do some hotels/ shacks refuse to entertain Indian tourists?
A. I feel like laughing at this perception. International tourists are mostly chartered tourists, with spending limitations. Indian tourists have bigger spending capacity. Hence, shack owners are demanding they be allowed to start early so that they can cater to the needs of domestic tourists visiting Goa year-round. Hotels and nightclubs too have made somewhat similar demands.
Q. Have floating casinos been told to operate from the high seas? Will this affect tourism?
A. Definitely. They generate revenue, and are flocked by international and domestic tourists alike. Since casinos started in Goa, a lot of people feel they should be moved out to the high seas. But it's impossible because the sea is rough, and there is always a possibility of an untoward happening. The government has decided to retain them where they are. In the long-term, options are being explored to shift casinos to rivers like Sal and Chapora, where they can be moored.
Q. What is being done for women's safety?
A. We have around 100 IRB policemen manning the beaches alongside local cops. We also have tourist taxis driven by women drivers. I don't think any other place offers women and children the security that Goa does.
Q. Any plans to open a second airport in Mopa?
A. Dabolim airport will be used only for domestic flights, once the new airport is ready. Then Mopa will become an international hub.
Q. Any likelihood of starting the Mumbai-Goa sea route?
A. A service is starting between Mumbai and Mormugao Port. I also know that somebody has already purchased a high-speed Australian catamaran with a carrying capacity 850 people and provision for ferrying vehicles.
125 km Total length of Goa's coastline