Diversifying Goa’s bouquet of tourism experiences beyond beaches with sustainable initiatives like homestays, caravan tourism, agro-tourism and spiritual circuits will create ample ground for women’s empowerment, according to Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte.
Khaunte was speaking at a recent event at The St. Regis Goa Resort in Cavelossim, organised by SKAL International Goa, a global network of travel and tourism industry stakeholders, where well known Goan entrepreneur Vivek Kerkar was installed as the president of the network.
“Goa is now focusing on sustainable development in the hinterland, including non-vertical tourism clusters, including homestay clusters, caravan tourism, agrotourism, and spiritual circuits. We believe that this approach not only provides unique experiences for our visitors but also empowers local communities, thereby enhancing the overall tourism ecosystem,” Khaunte said at the installation ceremony.
“These actions create opportunities for women in the local communities to actively participate in and benefit from the tourism industry. Women’s economic empowerment is not just a matter of gender equality; it is an essential step towards sustainable and inclusive tourism,” he further said.
The Tourism Minister further said that the state Tourism Ministry was in the process of providing training mentorship and access to resources for women entrepreneurs to “ensure that they can establish and grow their homestay business in the tourism sector”. “This empowerment will contribute to a more diverse and vibrant tourism landscape,” Khaunte said.
Kerkar, who took over as president of SKAL International Goa from the immediate past president Shekhar Divadkar, said that Goa should continue to build on its more recent reputation as the gastronomic capital of the country by promoting its Indo-Portuguese fusion cuisine, ensuring strict hygiene standards, as well as organising more open-air, public festivals promoting food.
SKAL International Goa is one of the leading trade bodies in the state, representing travel and tourism industry stakeholders, with more than 130 members in its ranks, which provides a platform for its members for business networking.
Speaking about boosting tourism activity and tourist arrivals in the state, Kerkar said: “Goa needs to focus on upskilling its tourism-related workforce, harmonise road networks and find ways to ease pressure on existing infrastructure caused by the manifold increase in tourist footfalls to maintain its reputation as one of India’s top tourism destinations”. He further said that the tourism industry needs to balance the challenges posed by environmental sustainability and infrastructure development.
Kerkar also trained the spotlight on the need to upskill the existing workforce in the state, while underlining the importance of training programmes to equip the human resource with the necessary skills to interact effectively with the diverse cultures present in the industry.
“Acquiring a skilled workforce is crucial in the growing Goan tourism industry. Efforts are needed to enhance training programmes, fostering better understanding and improved communication skills for diverse interactions,” he said, adding that Goa’s inherent strength is the friendly and cooperative nature of its people.
Looking ahead, Kerkar emphasised the need for Goa to expand its horizons in terms of marketing efforts, suggesting exploration of untapped markets in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe, particularly highlighting the potential in countries like Scandinavia and the USA.
In the context of sports and adventure tourism, he said that with the government’s investments in sports infrastructure, including stadiums and training facilities, especially for the upcoming National Games and various sports events, Goa was well-positioned to attract sports enthusiasts.