Panaji, July 31 IANS | 5 months ago

Goa ministers' remarks on banning biknis and demanding a Hindu nation have "really damaged" the state's reputation as a safe beach destination, said tourism industry stakeholders.

They said global tourism operators are increasingly worried about Goa's tilt towards fundamentalist politics.

The ministers and officials should restrain from making comments in order to save Goa's tourism industry from harm, Charles Bonifacio, head of Goa chapter of Skal International, a worldwide network of professionals promoting tourism, told IANS.

"Damage has been done for sure," Bonifacio said.

"There was this gentleman who said something about religion or a nation being of a particular religion... This is creating unnecessary controversies where it is not needed... What is important is that it is going to create a dent and damage by saying these things," he further said.

On Wednesday, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar admitted to putting a partial gag order on all his ministers, after two cabinet ministers and his deputy chief minister triggered national controversies thanks to their comments in the last one month.

While Cooperation Minister Deepak Dhavalikar in his assembly speech last week was wishful of seeing a Hindu nation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his brother and Public Works Department Minister Sudin Dhavalikar earlier had demanded a ban on bikinis and mini-skirts.

The controversy over Deepak Dhavalikar's Hindu nation remark also found mention in parliament.

On Monday, Deputy Chief Minister Francis D'Souza said India was already a "Hindu nation", a comment which had attracted a lot of flak and was reported internationally.

After the bikini ban comment made by the PWD minister went viral, Ernst Dias, vice president of Kuoni Travels (India), a leading Swiss-based tourism operator, said he received several calls from tourism agents across the world, asking if female tourists would really be allowed to wear bikinis on Goa's popular beaches.

"First of all, selling Goa to tourists is not easy. On top of that these comments make it difficult. The image of Goa has taken a severe beating abroad," Dias said.

Dias, whose company sourced 94,000 international charter tourists to Goa, also said the comments made by Goa's ministers and by union Tourism Minister Shripad Naik, who had expressed his desire to discourage "pub culture", concerned the tourism industry.

"A lot of people have expressed this (fear)," he said.

"We cannot talk about banning bikinis and pubs when we (our tourism) are about beaches," Dias also said.

Goa is one of the top beach and nightlife tourism destinations in the country and attracts three million tourists annually out of which half a million are foreigners.

(Posted on 31-07-2014)

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