Shekhar Divadkar, President of SKAL Goa, elaborates on the global organisation and speaks about plans for his term as President
Tell us about SKAL Goa. What does the organisation aim to achieve?
Skal Club of Goa was launched in May 2007 and has built up over the years in terms of membership numbers of active Skalleagues and so also launched the Young Skal Chapter in 2020. Skal Club of Goa is a registered society and all the activities held are as per Skal International guidelines. The aim is to offer successful networking opportunities for business amongst friends, within and across the clubs based in India, Asia and the world at large. You are assured of the integrity of the individuals who you do business with and can do so with peace and harmony without any stress, whatsoever. The networking opportunities open up avenues to learn and adopt practices that are beneficial to the health and growth of individual entities. Benefits may be offered to travelling Skalleagues visiting your part of the world and this, in turn, would only help in increasing tourism activity all around. Presently, the focus is on sustainable tourism.
Your experience in the tourism sector over the years
I have been associated with the hospitality business since 1986. I have been a part of hospitality related activity in Mumbai hotels and post 1994, in Goa hotels. I have seen the highs and the lows right from 1992 and the situation prevailing after the Babri Masjid demolition followed by the Mumbai bomb blasts and the effects on hospitality, restaurants and tourism business in Mumbai. Thereafter, there was the World Trade Center related terrorist activity and its effects on travel and tourism activity all over the world. The international holiday activity dwindled and domestic travel activity was focused upon and was ably supported by the Dil Chahata Hai campaign launched by the then Government of Goa to promote tourism from the domestic sector to our beautiful State. This campaign indeed helped in making Goa a year-round travel destination instead of the earlier October to March holiday period. With the surge in domestic tourists to Goa, the number of hotels offering value added services also increased. Then after the 26 November Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008; and the effects due to travel curbs on travelers to India as related to visa validity for the duration of stay in India. Charter tourists who were given to spending the period from November to March in Goa due to cold weather in their respective countries were the most affected by these curbs. Covid and post covid recovery period added to our learning activity and opened our eyes further to working with a lean team and improving on the profitability of the entities.
What does SKAL stand for?
Sundheit Karlek Alder Lyka (Travel organisation, Good Health, Love/Friendship, Long Life, Happiness)
The above is the origin and today we have – The SKAL Toast says, “To fellow SKAL LEAGUES everywhere, Happiness, Good health, Friendship and Long life, which adds up to SKAL!
What are the criteria for membership? Tell us about the various members of SKAL Goa?
Membership is open to professionals from the hospitality and tourism sectors, as well as allied areas such as tourism boards, flight kitchens, casinos, event management entities etc.
Who is part of the leadership team and what varied contribution do they bring to the organisation?
We have a healthy mix of senior professionals from both the hospitality and tourism sectors as part of the Skal Goa Board. The Board members are assigned specific activities like membership development; raising sponsorship;
Young Skal activity; event management; PR and social media management, CSR activities etc. The Past Presidents of SKAL Goa also play a very important role in guiding the activities through the year.
The connects of the Board Officials that has been developed over years of interaction with the trade members, government officials and others works in favour whenever Skal Goa activities are planned.
What are the various programes and initiatives that SKAL Goa has done over the last year?
Skal Goa has conducted our regular General Body Meetings every month and also held our annual event the Skal Goa Christmas function, as well.
Other than this, we have participated in the World Beach Cleaning Day activities on 17th September; World Tourism Day activities on 27th September; E Rally from Dona Paula to Miramar and back; The walk around at Raj Bhavan, Old Goa, Colva etc; Cooking competition at Cidade de Goa IHCL SeleQtion; World Tourism Day event finale at Taj Resort & Convention Center.
On 9th November 2022, the key aspects of ‘Sustainable Tourism’ was put into practice by the Executive Committee of Skal Goa at our meeting, by using environmentally friendly transportation, on a well preserved pristine island (Diwar), while supporting the host communities in all touch points.
Tell us something about the charity drives undertaken by SKAL Goa
Skal Goa in association with The Rotary Club of Margao and DATRI organised a blood stem cell donor registration camp at Fortune Miramar; CSR along with Team Fortune Miramar – provisions offered to Peace Haven School for the Differently Abled; CSR along with team Fortune Miramar – provisions offered to Shanti Avedna Home for the terminally ill cancer patients; CSR along with Team Fortune Miramar – CCP workers games, gifts and lunch; CSR along with Team Fort Aguada – used linen and uniforms offered to Old Aged Home in Baga; Coastal Cleanup on 17th September 2022; The clean-up drive near the tourist hostel, Calangute beach – Sk’s. Ernest Dias and Alirio Lobo represented Skal Goa at the event; Arossim Beach – team Heritage Village Resort & Spa guided by Sk. Guitry Velho; Calangute Beach – team The Park guided by Sk. Saurabh Khanna; Sea Walk Miramar – Team BLive e-bikes guided by Sk. Sandeep Mukherjee; Sinquerim Beach Team’s Fort Aguada & Holiday Village Resort & Spa guided by Sk. Vincent Ramos.
You have a youth team called the Young Skal. What is the aim of the youth team?
Our vibrant Young Skal Club of Goa has provided an excellent platform for budding students at the Institute of Hotel Management Goa with an opportunity to learn from the best, excel and integrate with the mainstream hospitality professionals.
Young Skal Club of Goa conducted their monthly activities with their mentors under guidance from Young Skal Director Sk. Carl Costa with a series of well thought out programs including sessions and study tours.
Various programs have been conducted like study tour of Alila Diwa Goa; study tour of Planet Hollywood; study tour of Paul John Distillery; study tour of Westin Anjuna; fire safety; pollution control measures for hospitality, restaurant and travel industries; World Tourism Day; Culinary Contest at Cidade De Goa – IHCL SeleQtions; eco-friendly sustainable tourism. We also hosted a mini rally permitted only non-fossil fuel-based transportation, like electric vehicles, e-bikes, and bicycles and DeSigning Feni.
What are the various projects that you have envisaged in the near future?
The focus right now is on sustainable tourism activities. We care for our beautiful state and would like to focus our activities on applying better practices in our individual entities as we conduct our businesses. Saying no to plastic – plastic bottles, straws, stirrers etc; Setting up of water bottling units to offer safe drinking water to our valued clients; Setting up of waste converters for converting our organic waste to fertilizers for use in our gardens and landscaped areas; setting up of sewage treatment plants (STPs) as required and increasing the efficiency of the in-use sewage treatment plants.
This would aid in reducing the pressure on availability of clean water. The treated water could be used for flushing and also for gardening etc. Promoting the growth of traditional crafts and occupations and also spreading the need to carrying on farming activity using organic manure for healthy plant growth; and keeping the pollution due to use of chemicals to zero levels.
These are some of the activities that we will focus on in the year ahead.