Goa the land of sun, sand and sea needs no introduction, being as it were, a perennial favorite of the Indian and international traveller alike. Labelled as the Destination for all seasons, its humid tropical climate has proved to be no deterrent for the hordes of tourists who throng its shores all year round.
The proactive Goan tourism department now takes a step backward … yes backward from its beaches and shoreline and leads us into its hitherto lesser known hinterlands that display different aspects of its culture and customs.
The Goa International Travel Mart GITM 2019, is yet another step towards showcasing an expanded portfolio of this tiny yet diverse state and it calls out to the world to take heed of its enormous potential to please a range of travellers from the world over.
And as the ambigram aptly projects, Goa can be enjoyed in every way. Right side up or even upside down 😀
So stretch your necks and twist your heads … or easier still, just flip your phones and follow me as we take a closer look at what Goa is offering us.
About Goa –
The history of Goa dates back to prehistoric times as indicated by archaeological findings.
The Portugese who were the first to invade India, took over Goa in 1510 and they were also the last to leave when Goa was liberated from them in 1961, to become a Union territory. Goa finally achieved statehood in 1987.
Goa is India’s smallest state and this little state whose coastline hugs the Arabian sea, is one of the most popular tourist destinations of India, its tiny size notwithstanding.
Goa is flanked by the Arabian sea on the west and the Sahyadri mountains (western ghats) on the east and hence its topography is sufficiently diverse with beaches, forests, mountains, valleys, rivers etc.
The region became popular in the 1960’s with the arrival of the hippies or the flower children as they were called. Finding the place endearing, they made it their recurring destination and thus Goa came to bask in the limelight of the tourist radar.
About GITM –
GITM is a B2B networking event created to showcase the appeal of Goa as an appealing tourist destination and to exhibit its varied range of travel products to India and the world. The event has taken place once in every 4 years, beginning from its first edition in 2011 and subsequent ones in 2015 and now in Oct 2019.
Organized by Goa Tourism, it is also supported by various partners who are prominent names in the event management, hospitality, media and tour operator associations.
The participating brands span a range of travel products that include hotels, tour and travel companies, wellness brands, wedding destinations, nightlife, eco tourism, adventure, culinary tourism, heritage and such like.
About GITM 2019 –
GITM 2019 is the third edition and it was planned to be bigger and better than its predecessors (Please see the brief video at the end of the blog).
There were over 125 international buyers from countries like USA, UK, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Scandinavian, Baltic’s, CIS, Australia, New Zealand and some countries of Eastern Europe, Middles east and the far East.
There were also over 150 buyers from the domestic front.
Day 1 –
Day 1 began with a late evening inauguration at the Ballroom of the palatial Park Regis hotel in North Goa.
The space is enormous and the largest in this district. It is pillar free and can accommodate up to 1500 guests.
The inaugural ceremony was graced by dignitaries like the Hon’ble Chief Minister (CM) of Goa – Dr Pramod Sawant, Hon’ble Deputy CM and Minister of Tourism – Shri Manohar Ajgaonkar, the MD of GTDC – Shri Nikhil Desai.
The evening began with the auspicious lighting of the lamp by the CM.
The various speeches all led to indicating how Goa was a safe and welcoming land with an array of tourism products to entice every kind of visitor.
The CM launched a short film that had been produced to showcase the enhanced range of tourism products that Goa wishes to offer the world.
The night continued with cultural programs that brought forth Goa’s traditional dances and entertainment.
The event concluded with cocktails and a sumptuous spread that was laid out with dishes to suit both Indian and International palates.
The incessant rain provided continued entertainment even after the event 😀 and we had a taste of adventure tourism as we attempted to be ferried by our buses back to our hotel (Le Meridien) that night. Read more about the hotel, on the link.
Day 2 –
On Day 2, the action was at the GITM venue which was the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium in Taleigao where nearly 100 exhibitors had their stalls. The day got underway with prefixed b2b appointments and interactions with the buyers who had been hosted for the event.
At the press conference held for the media which consisted of nearly 60 members including domestic and international bloggers and mainstream print media, the MD of GTDC, Shri Nikhil Desai, made an exhaustive presentation supported by an audio visual projection that covered all the salient aspects that Goa Tourism was seeking to highlight.
The other member of the panel namely Shri Mr. Ashok Kumar (IAS), Secretary Tourism also answered questions from the press and social media.
Some of the takeaways from the press meet were (in random order) –
Goa has much more to offer, beyond the usual projected sun, sand and beach.
Adventure tourism is in focus and recently winning the award for best State in adventure tourism, has given Goa a boost in this direction. White water rafting, sea rafting, bungee jumping, para gliding, kayaking, scuba diving, hot air balloons etc are a part of the portfolio.
Nature, wildlife and eco tourism is also being given prominence.
Goa is a bird watchers paradise with over 500 species that have been documented.
Some of the beaches have protected nesting sites for the endangered Olive Ridley turtles.
Responsible and environmentally friendly tourism by providing electric bicycles.
Goa is a safe destination. There are no designated No Go zones and security is not an issue even for solo women travellers. Of course it is wise to follow the general guidelines of safety as in any other place in the world.
Raj Bhavan tours. This building was earlier a palace and is now the residence of the Governor of Goa.
Mandatory provision in all places of tourist movement, for access to specially abled persons.
Ho Ho buses – Hop on Hop off tours of the city.
The introduction of Goa Miles, a govt support App based taxi service with a current fleet of over 2000 cars. A much needed facility in the hitherto unstructured transport system in Goa.
A few bridges and links are in the process of construction and they will drastically reduce the transit time between certain key locations.
Building of a Flotel (houseboat accommodation) that will be ready in a few months.
A range of hotels and stay options to suit all budgets.
The relaxing and clarifying of the Cruise policy has opened up possibilities for renewing cruise tourism and there is a dedicated terminal that will be deployed for this.
The government is also further promoting the existing River cruises and there are plans to build world class terminals at the river jetties too.
Introduction of e visa and reduction of GST (tax) on tourism to entice more tourists.
An upcoming convention center at Dona Paula with world class facilities and which can accommodate 5000 people.
Goa is considered the 6th best nightlife capital in the world on par with places like Ibiza in Spain and Thessaloniki in Greece.
It has 4 of Asia’s top 25 beaches like the Benaulim and Agonda.
Goa is popular for destination weddings.
Goa is one of the few states in India that has its own casinos both offshore and on land, which are meant only for tourists and not for local Goans. The floating casinos are some of the largest crafts in India.
Goa is the permanent venue of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) which takes place every year from Nov 20th – Nov 28th, and receives film stars and celebrities from the world over.
There is excellent connectivity to Goa by road, rail and air from across the country and the world.
The construction of the new International airport at Mopa in North Goa is underway and expected to be operational by 2022.
The construction of a dedicated helipad is underway and that will give a boost to heli tourism which is getting very popular among tourists nowadays. There will be a tie up with Pavan Hans, which is a Govt of India company to provide helicopters. Aerial coastal, waterfall and heritage tours will resume within a few months from now, once the infrastructure is in place.
In order to focus on heritage and culture tourism, there is a dedicated annual event called the Heritage festival of Goa. Plans are also underway to launch a facility at Baga beach by mid December 2019,which will be a one stop window that encapsulates and displays what Goa is all about. This mini Goan village will depict the cultural life of Goa via story boards and laser sound and light set ups. There will also be a showcasing of live performances, cuisine, attire etc
The govt also encourages the owners of heritage properties to let out their places as bed and breakfast options, so that tourists can experience the lifestyle first hand.
Goa is said to have the highest number of centers for performing arts, called Ravindra Bhavans. Of course there is also the Shigmo festival and the Carnaval that Goa is famous for.
Training of man power is given importance and apart from an Institute of Hotel Management, Goa also has a National Institute of water sports where training is given in water based activities and life guarding.
Encouraging educational tours for students by providing relevant facilities.
An impetus will be given to promote medical and wellness tourism with world class facilities with treatments that include dental, ayurveda, spas, western, south Asian and other therapies.
City tour –
After this, some of the media people were taken on a city tour that covered a few places of interest like some well known churches. However, I missed that because I had to go on a restaurant review of The Awadh House with a few of the remaining media. Read about it on the link.
The night brought entertainment in the form of a dinner at the Deltin Royale Casino, one of Goa’s popular spots that is said to be the largest casino here. Docked on the Mandovi river, its live shows, international dancers and models, copious amounts of food and drink and of course dedicated decks for gaming, make this vibrant floating casino a must visit spot on Goa’s tourist circuit. More about this in my experience at the Deltin Royale Casino.
Day 3 –
A part of Day 3 was spent at the exhibition venue, looking around the stalls and exploring the various travel products on display.
Lunch was hosted by the Bambolim Beach Resort, a 3 star beachside property at Bambolim. Read more about it on the link.
The GITM 2019 event concluded with a networking dinner hosted at the exhibition venue itself.
A short video of the GITM 2019 –
GITM contacts –
More details of GITM can be availed from their GITM Website
Getting there –
Goa is easily accessible by road, rail and air.
The Goa international airport at Dabolim, operates flights to many key destinations.
A blue carpet displaying creatures of the sea is their version of the red carpet for visitors who arrive at the airport 😀
The departure lounge also is sufficiently comfortable with several retail outlets and food and beverage options.
There is also a Lounge of sorts that accepts certain credit/debit cards that give access to complimentary food and drink.
On this trip I was hosted by Goa Tourism and partnering hotels, as a media invitee and I thank them for the hospitality. My narration is based on the inputs I received from various sources as well as my personal experiences.
Oct 23rd – 25th, 2019