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Killjoy BJP government ruining tourism, say stakeholders

Posted on Dec 01, 12:35PM | IANS

A cash-strapped Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Goa government is not only playing killjoy in Goa but appears to be hammering the last few nails in the travel industry's coffin, the beach state's tourism stakeholders say.

After the long and painful delay in the allotment of temporary shacks on the beaches this season and curbs on beach beds on popular beaches, a sudden increase now in the excise fee for parties and celebrations that serve alcohol has had the tourism industry gasping for breath.

Cheap alcohol and parties, musical celebrations and other public events involving music and entertainment are some of the top tourist draws for Goa, which attracts 2.6 million tourists annually and the more than 100 percent hike in excise fee for large parties and functions will hit hard businesses involved in organising such gigs, the stakeholders said.

Sean Faia, who runs a firm called Muzic Matters, organises music events, often involving DJs, which see several hundred people. He said the hike is unjustified.

"Something like a 10 percent hike would have been fine, if the government wanted to increase the rates, but a hike like this will make matters extremely difficult for us," the Panaji-based event manager told IANS.

The Goa government announced out of the blue, that events which see 500 to 1,000 patrons would have to pay Rs.50,000 as excise licence fee per day, while those which attract crowds of over 1,000 would have to shell out Rs.100,000 per day. This is more than 100 percent of what the state excise department used to charge.

The excise department functions under the finance ministry, which is controlled by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Parrikar has been under pressure to shore up revenues, especially after a ban on the state's cash-rich mining industry has set back Goa's revenue by nearly Rs.600 crore. While the chief minister has promised to make up the lost revenue through innovative means, the tourism industry is hardly impressed by the excise hike move.

"It's hard for the tourism industry," said Manguirish Pai Raikar, president of the Goa Chamber for Commerce and Industry (GCCI), a top trade organisation here.

The hike is also expected to affect organisers of mega events like Sunburn, a three-day music festival, as well as other dance parties, which rank high in Goa's tourism portfolio, because these events attract thousands of young music lovers from the Indian metros as well as other affluent tier-II towns.

"The increasing cost this year to set up a simple tourism-related enterprise has escalated manyfold. First they delayed the shack allotment, then they reduced beach beds, then they wanted CCTVs in all shacks and now this excise fee issue. We will have to pass on this burden to the tourists who come here. That's not fair on them," Cruz Cardozo, spokesperson for the Shack Owners Welfare Society (SOWS), told IANS.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at .n@ians.in)