How will the newly launched app-based taxi service GoaMiles benefit tourists? Why the decision for your own app instead of letting Ola/Uber enter the state?
Today, Goa is the only destination where radio taxis like Ola/Uber are not allowed to operate because of the taxi union. So now we have launched our own app. I know it will be a little difficult for tourists using the app for the first time as they have to download the app but it will help them. Initially there will be some teething problems. But over a period of time there will be other benefits too like tourists can book adventure activities from their cab itself. It will probably take another two months to set things up. But right now they can hire taxis from point to point.
Ola/Uber didn’t work here because of the apprehension of taximen that Ola/Uber eats into their earnings as they have to pay a percentage of the fare to these aggregators. Contrarily, in the case of GoaMiles, we are not taking a rupee from them, everything they earn they can keep. So the question of them not accepting the app does not arise. It will take some time to break traditions but everyday more than 100 taxis are joining GoaMiles.
We are doing background checks, police clearances of the taxi drivers before adding them to the app. The app also has a Panic button which is integrated to the Goa Police Department for emergencies. Even Ola/Uber don’t have this facility. As soon as the button is pressed the Goa Police will immediately be alerted to the emergency and the nearest police vehicle will attend to the situation.
Any new GTDC properties coming up? Upgrading existing ones?
We have three new properties coming up at Anjuna, Vagator and Benaulim but because of the CRZ rules we are facing a delay. All these are on a joint venture basis. We are also upgrading Colva Residency and Miramar Residency which we are converting to four-star and five-star properties on a joint venture again. Sadly, these are also hampered because of CRZ but in the next two months we should get the clearances.
The ambitious amphibious bus service project was soft launched two years ago but failed to take off. Why the delay?
Whichever projects we have taken up we have chosen to encourage entrepreneurship or startups. We want to help Goan Indian youth to take up ventures. So for the amphibious bus project too we went with a startup company in Goa with three partners but they have had problems. Because it was the first amphibious bus project in the country, the permissions took a lot of time so these youth got disillusioned and the startup had some problems. But we are in talks with them and if they do not want to continue then we will rope in another startup to take the project ahead. We like to encourage entrepreneurs so we will still stick to our model to go with a startup. We don’t want to invest; we prefer to handhold new entrepreneurs. We have started some 13 or 14 such activities and all are being operated by startups.
What about converting Aguada Jail into a museum?
This project has also got stuck because of CRZ rules as the Fort is near the sea. Unfortunately, red tapism still exists in government departments and somewhere down the line the PM has to look into curtailing this, for more efficient functioning of these departments. The CRZ is such a blanket rule and our files are pending with them for many years now. I cannot even erect a toilet or changing rooms on the beachside for facilitating tourists. I think that we should at least relax rules for providing the basic amenities like a toilet block, a changing room, a shower room for tourists. They have to take a holistic view of these things and there should be no need for permissions. The Fort is also a Heritage structure so there are too many government bodies involved like the ASI, etc. At least the Prime Minister should allow relaxation of certain rules for government bodies to implement things in their own states.
What about tourism infrastructure at beaches like at Colva and Benaulim?
We had already tendered some part of it but now the tourism minister K J Alphons has said he will give a new big boost to the tourism belt in Goa as it is one of India’s prime destinations. They will be appointing a consultant for Goa who will come and do the entire recce on his own first and then they will come to us and see what we want. So it is basically on them, not on us. So our job is restricted here. Even though they are ready to give us INR 100 to 150 crore for the entire stretch, it is for them to come with the consultant and tell us what they propose to do and if there is anything extra we can only propose. But so far the consultant has not approached us.