Panaji, April 30 (IANS) The Goa unit of Congress on Tuesday accused state’s Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar of wasting public money on a jaunt to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) along with members of his family.
Ajgaonkar, however, said the international visit was aimed at marketing Goa as a tourism destination in the Gulf.
Addressing a press conference in Panaji on Tuesday, state Congress president Girish Chodankar alleged that Ajgaonkar was wasting money from the state exchequer on international jaunts with family.
“The same minister had gone on a ‘tourism promotion’ trip to the US with his family last year. And now he is doing the same with a trip to the UAE. It is a shame that he has not learnt any lessons despite criticism about his last trip to the US,” Chodankar said.
Chodankar also said that it was sad that the coastal state was being promoted as a destination for cheap alcohol and casinos. “The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had once promised to get rid of the casinos and now they are promoting them abroad,” Chodankar said.
The controversy comes at a time when Goa is witnessing a dip in tourism arrivals, which has been cited as a cause of concern by the travel and tourism industry stakeholders, who have also accused the Ministry of splurging on marketing and promotion without giving any thought.
Speaking to IANS from the UAE, Ajgaonkar said that tourism promotion abroad was essential to increase tourist flow to Goa. He also said that he was in the UAE on a personal visit with his family and that he had only attended the Arabian Travel Mart, because a Goa Tourism team had participated in the tourism marketing event.
“No one is wasting Tourism Ministry’s money. We are getting a good response in the UAE. Without promotion we can’t get tourists to Goa,” Ajgaonkar said, adding that the marketing plan involved promotion of Goa’s natural beauty and not alcohol and casinos.
“My family had made a plan to visit the UAE a month ago. I went to the travel mart only because our Goa Tourism team is already there. My family trip and the tourism mart visit are two different things,” Ajgaonkar said.
Last year, Goa, a popular beach and nightlife tourism destination, attracted seven million tourists.