“Our vision is to ensure that the local community is involved, engaged and benefits as the tourism industry grows”

Jack Ajit Sukhija, President of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) shares his vision and plans for his tenure

Something about TTAG
TTAG was founded in 1977 as a club and is the main association of businesses in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors. Any business which is registered with the Department of Tourism, Government of Goa can be a member. We presently represent about 1000 plus businesses with 250 members. Our members include airlines, airports, tour operators, travel agents, hotels across the spectrum from luxury hotels to small key properties and guest houses, excursion operators, event management companies, etc. We have a board seat on various government bodies like the Goa Tourism Board (GTB), Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC), Pollution Control Board, etc.

Elaborate on your experience in the tourism sector over the years
I started working in the family business, Tan Estates, which comprises of owning and operating heritage hotels in 2002. My father, Eng. Ajit Sukhija, conceptualised and started Goa’s first classified heritage hotel, WelcomHeritage Panjim Inn in his 135-year-old family house and is a pioneer in establishing heritage hotels in Goa. Other bespoke small heritage hotel projects in Fontainhas are Panjim Pousada and Panjim Peoples. We also have farmstays, the Cajueiro Homestead and Virdi Valley at Advoi village in Sattari and Virdi village at Dodamarg, Sindhudurg, Maharashtra. As a history enthusiast, I am a member and Secretary of Goa Heritage Action Group (GHAG) I was keenly involved in the heritage walks project and conduct a few walks myself.

What is your primary focus for TTAG during your term as president?
Our vision is to ensure that the local community is involved, engaged and benefits as the tourism industry grows. To do this we will try and ensure that the local community and local experiences are at the forefront of all that we do.

Sitting (L-R): Vinay Albuquerque (Vice President, South Goa), Nilesh Shah (Immediate Past President), Jack Sukhija (President), Rohan Khaunte (Minister for Tourism and Information Technology), Aakash Madgavkar (Vice President, North Goa), Rajesh Salgaonker (Treasurer) Standing (L-R): Carl Costa, Savio Messias, Ernest Dias, Guitry Velho, Ranjit Phillipose, Suneel Anchipaka, Smita Patil, Esther Mascarenhas, and Joao Xavier Miranda

Tell us about your team and what strengths do they add to TTAG?
TTAG operates through a Managing Committee. Our team comprises of Vinay Albuquerque, Vice President, South Goa; who is the largest Goan player in the hospitality industry. Vinay is a Civil Engineer and alumnus of IHM Goa and has brand tie-ups with Radisson and Novotel. He is the Director of Alcon Victor Group and Partner at Indy Hospitality. He has a talent for identifying major issues like cleanliness and taking them head-on at the grassroots level.
Aakash Anand Madgavkar is the Vice President, North Goa. His company Paradise Ventures is a pioneer in the river cruise industry in Goa. The Group began in 1990’s and has diversified into small hotels and other Tourism-related ventures. A hard-working, detail-oriented person with a flair for organisation Aakash is excellent in establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and ensuring that they are implemented.
Rajesh Salgaonkar is our Secretary and is a Rotarian with a flair for networking and organisation. He has been into the hospitality and construction business for the last 30 years.
Tito Goes Proenca is our Treasurer and is a Civil Engineer who has been involved in setting up many hospitality projects. He is the Director of Goenca Resorts Private Limited which owns and operates Resort Marinha Dourada, Resort Primo Bom and Hotel Celi at Calangute. Proenca is a keen analyst of government policies and infrastructure issues.
The other Managing Committee members are Ernest Dias, who has played a major role in promoting Goa both in the Charter and Free and Independent Traveler (FIT) markets; Ranjit Phillipose, Senior Vice President-Operations, IHCL-Goa who brings a wealth of experience in exceptional hospitality leadership spanning three decades; Guitry Velho, Director and Vice President at the Select Group and The Heritage Village Resort and Spa Goa, who has always demonstrated a passion for innovation and leadership; Jerry Pinto, Founder and CEO, Buzz Events, Goa’s premier event management and wedding planners agency; Savio Messias, Past President of TTAG for 2 terms, a former secretary of Goa Football Association, Chairman of Ashadeep School for special kids and a hotelier; Carl Costa, Director, Fortune Hotels, Miramar and ama stays and trails Villa Siolim; Smita Patil, Director at NV Eco Agro Tourism Pvt Ltd (NV Ecofarm) and Co-chair of CII IWN for the year 2024-25; Esther Mascarenhas, owner of Prainha Resort Dona Paula; Nilesh Shah, Founder Partner of Purushottam Bhagwan and Associates, a tour and travel company that has a prominent presence in Panjim and Margao. He has 3 decades of experience in the tourism business and was the President of TTAG for two terms.

What are the issues plaguing the tourism industry in Goa?
The tourism industry in Goa generates over 2000 crores in Indirect Taxes (GST, VAT and Excise) for the State and National exchequer. It creates around 2.5 lakh jobs. In addition, it pays direct taxes like income tax which we are not able to quantify. Many more jobs/self- employment opportunities are created and taxes generated over its supply chain. Goa has been a major tourism destination for over 30 years. The product is therefore in the mature stage. Some of the key issues which the industry is facing are, single window licensing for weddings and events; Revival of the international market; Transport and last mile connectivity; Cleanliness; Proper beach management; Manpower and skilling; Lack of a world class convention centre to facilitate MICE and weddings; Safety and security/touting; Reduction in the number of flights at Dabolim Airport; High registration and licensing fees; Revisions in GST; Hinterland tourism should be regulated; Climate change; and parking zones in major tourism areas, are some of the issues that need to be deliberated and discussed with the government so that proper action can be taken.

How is TTAG’s relation with the GTDC and how would you like to build bridges with them?
TTAG works in synergy with the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC). We have a seat on the Goa Tourism Board (GTB) and our members are part of the Empowered Committees (ECs) which advise the board. DoT and GTDC focus on 4 major areas:
• Licensing/Regulations: This is a continuous process. Thanks to Rohan Khaunte, the Minister for Tourism; one can now register with the tourism department with just three documents − a government approved ID (Aadhar, PAN, etc), ownership or lease document and a GST registration if applicable. We also have the option of taking a registration license for 5 years. Work is on to streamline permissions for weddings and events through a single window app.
• Marketing and PR: We have submitted our recommendations on the trade fairs (domestic and international) that the government should participate in. We have also recommended a SOP for promotion of local festivals. We also have established a digital platform through which we promote Goa.
• New Tourism Services: We believe that the government should work on a private public partnership basis with respect to such projects. Private players need to be helped by obtaining all licenses and not left high and dry after a tender is over.
• Land and Infrastructure: Again the government has to work on a private public partnership basis.
In addition, the Tourism Department is responsible for beach cleaning, shacks on the beaches, etc. We recommend that Goa should have a Tourist Security Force on the lines of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, which will address safety and security concerns.

If there is one common problem that locals and tourists share, it is that of transport. How do you plan on regulating the taxi drivers, rent-a-bike, and car operators?
Public and private transport is a major part of the tourism eco-system. Goa needs a safe, efficient, regular and comfortable 24×7 public transport system which connects all parts of the state. Taxi operators, cab drivers and rent-a-bike operators should be brand ambassadors of the state. A skilling programme on soft skills in dealing with guests would be one of our solutions to try and get them to up-skill. We also need technology and transparency in pricing in the private taxi business. A taxi counter at the hotel cannot have monopoly power. Apps like Namma Yatri in Bangalore developed by Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) which charge a minimum commission, can be considered.

Sustainability is the new buzzword that is taking over every industry. How do you see sustainability and tourism co-existing?
Till date, economic systems of production, consumption and rapacious exploitation of materials have had a symbiotic relationship. With climate change, the status quo no longer prevails.
At the local level, our members are starting to move towards sustainability measures using the ‘reduce reuse and recycle’ mantra as well as a system geared towards the circular economy; wherever possible treated waste water is used for watering garden areas. Rain water harvesting and water table recharge is also done where possible. Various measures in housekeeping like changing of sheets on checkout rather than every day, liquid toiletries in reusable containers etc are starting to gain ground. The next step is elimination of single use plastic in a phased manner. Towards this end, IHCL has already installed a glass bottle water bottling plant which will eliminate 292,000 plastic bottles a year. Small hotels like Donna Sa Maria in Colva have installed waste water recycling systems as well as use their wet waste to make compost.

What initiatives are your members, the stakeholders of the tourism business, been taking to bring in a change that TTAG is hoping for?
Licensing, taxation and standards: We are engaging with Government departments and pointing out best practices in the rest of the country as well as the world. For example, the Nilgiris have phased out single use plastic and have a tourism security force. There is also an e-pass system which one can process online in 5 minutes which monitors the number of tourists entering a state or district.
Marketing: We have given our suggestions on trade fairs and festivals in which to participate and SOPs to be followed. We have also started our own social media page through which we will carry out a digital marketing campaign.
Cleanliness: We will undertake a campaign to raise awareness of this issue which we believe is critical towards maintaining Goa as a travel destination. Plans in this regard are being worked on.
Skilling: A sub-committee has been formed and a road map is being planned.
Other areas: Continuous interaction and engagement with various stakeholders is on.

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