The first G20 working group meeting in Goa has already been held. Delegates came, stayed, discussed and departed for their home countries.
Goa has a few weeks before the next working group meeting is held. The questions arising from what transpired are: were there any lessons learnt? Was there any benefit to Goa?
Was Goa able to position itself as a destination for the richest countries in the world? Or, is it that at Rs 300 crore (the figure that was mentioned in the budget presented last month as being set aside to host the G20 meetings), the state is paying more than it should to host these working group meetings in Goa?
Presenting the budget for 2023-24, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that the hosting of the meetings would be an “opportunity to showcase its (Goa’s) rich cultural diversity across the globe” and that for “various infrastructure works and other activities for smooth conduct of the G-20 meetings, a total budget of Rs 300 crore has been earmarked across various departments”.
In addition, for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meet, also scheduled in Goa, there is a provision of Rs 15 crore. In effect, the budget for the current fiscal year to host the international meets has been pegged at Rs 315 crore.
So, what are the benefits of hosting the meetings, or what are the returns from the Rs 300 crore investment?
Previous G20 summits are known to have benefited host cities by around 100 million US dollars. Of course, Goa is hosting some eight meetings, as announced by the state government, of the G20. These are working group meetings, where the world leaders will not converge.
The meetings will bring together officials holding senior positions from various countries. The recompense will not be on a high scale, but it could still give back to Goa, only as long as Goa can position itself such as to receive the benefits.
The G20 working group meetings in Goa will include two on tourism, an industry that is supposed to be the state’s forte. In recent years, the state’s economy has been propped up by this industry. If the meetings are planned prudently, these international events could reap economic and touristic benefits.
The first direct benefit would be an increased cash flow in the host state, coming from accommodation, food and transport for the delegates, and also spending on leisure. These are the short-term gains of the meetings or, for that matter, any meetings hosted here.
But can these G20 meetings have a long-term positive impact? Especially in the case of Goa, which is also a tourist destination. It depends on how the state is positioned during interactions with the delegates, which could attract more mega events to the state.
It’s quite different to bask in the knowledge that Goa is host to G20 meetings and quite another to make this work in the long term. Goa’s long experience with IFFI has not catapulted it into mega-event host status.
Putting one’s hopes in the G20 meetings would be just a bit naïve, especially with the state having only just layered the roads for a smoother ride and painted the roadsides to give them a cleaner look.
Goa needs to reposition itself in the international tourism market, and these meetings could be the right opportunity for the state. Understand that the G20 countries collectively represent 85 per cent of the world’s economy.
Over the next few months, there will be representatives from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union in Goa. It’s the perfect captive audience to market Goa, just as long as their attention can be grabbed.
The platform has been made available, can it be utilised to make it work for Goa?
The opportunity is not just in getting a higher number of tourists from these countries, but in getting more mega events, hosted in the state, which will boost the tourism industry and also the economy.
Such events will also help the industry make the transition from being a charter destination to a MICE destination of the big spenders.
Goa has to convincingly promote itself as an attractive destination to the G20 delegates and not show sloppy preparations or planning. It cannot have G20 washroom signs at the Mopa airport that are called out for hurting religious sentiments and then hurriedly taken down.
Did it have to hide the casino branding on the streets when a large number of G20 countries also have casinos? There is a lot of planning to be done before the next G20 meeting in Goa. The state has the time, but can it be put to the best use possible?