In an incident that doesn't augur well for Goa's high-end tourism tag, 100 American tourists had to cancel their tour in Goa due to the unacceptable behaviour of taxi operators near the Mormugao cruise terminal.
Goa's Chief Minister and Tourism Minister, who went into damage-control mode, strongly condemned the incident and promised strict action against the taxi operators.
The incident has once again brought to light the high-handedness and hostility of the taxi operators who have tarnished the tourism industry that has the potential to support the state's economy, post-pandemic.
Some of the stakeholders, who decided not to have anything to do with the incident, said what the operators resorted to was in contrast to 'atithi devo bhava', which in Sanskrit implies guests must be treated equivalent to god.
Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte said that such behaviour by the taxi operators was unacceptable and intolerable. "The CM wants strict action against people involved in this incident. Further, the department will now have a counter at MPT cruise terminal for tourists and a queue system will be followed," he added.
When contacted, Nilesh Shah, who heads Travel & Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), said that this incident will surely have repercussions on Goa's cruise tourism.
Shah said these were high-end tourists who had booked their tour package a month in advance through the online mode. These US tourists were supposed to visit agricultural farms and hinterlands of Goa, but had to go back to the cruise ship and cancel the tour, he informed.
Francis Vaz, manager of Le Passage to India tours and travels said his American guests had to suffer and this will echo worldwide. It will have serious repercussions on Goa's cruise tourism, he added.
He said that many tourists have complained about this incident to their friends and relatives. "The cruise ship operator has mentioned to us that it has resolved not to visit Goa again and to write about this incident to other cruise ship operators asking them not to visit Goa," he said.
Le Passage has also filed a complaint with the Mormugao Police and the president of TTAG seeking strict action in the matter.
When contacted, Omkar Durbhatkar, President of Murgaocha Raja Taxi Union, declined to comment and added he will attend a meeting with the Superintendent of Police before giving any statement.
Another taxi operator at the cruise terminal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the incident happened out of confusion. "The buses were parked outside the cruise terminal gate where the taxi operators wait for customers. When we saw passengers coming out walking, we thought that it was our business and we approached them for hiring taxi. In other cases, the buses, which are booked in advance, drive inside the cruise terminal and pick up the guests," he added.
The taxi operator also questioned when tourist buses come and pick up guests in large numbers, how are they supposed to earn their livelihood?
Meanwhile, Mormugao Deputy Superintendent of Police Salim Shaikh told reporters that the tour operator did not make proper arrangements for 80 passengers of a third cruise ship. "There was a meeting of stakeholders at Mormugao police station wherein arrangements of two cruise ships were discussed, but the sudden arrival of the third one created confusion," he claimed.
Shaikh further added that this led the pre-booked buses to remain outside the cruise terminal gates. Further, the tourist taxis which were stationed outside felt that they would get business. This whole confusion took place as there was no prior intimation given to the stakeholders about the third cruise ship arrival, said the DYSP.