Goa gears up for G20 tourism meets, delegates arrive

Panaji: Goa is all set to host two crucial back-to-back G20 meets on the tourism track starting Monday besides a host of side events to promote cruise tourism as a “model for sustainable and responsible travel” and showcase the cultural heritage of the coastal state. Delegates have began arriving in Goa to take part in the fourth G20 Tourism Working Group (TWG) meeting and the G20 Tourism Ministerial meeting slated to be held here from June 19-22, officials said on Sunday.

The purpose of the TWG meeting is to discuss and address global tourism challenges and opportunities, they said.       At the Dabolim International Airport here, delegates were welcomed amid strains of Goan music and flamenco performances by dancers. The airport premises have been decked up with vibrant posters themed on G20 and natural beauty of the coastal state.

“About 20 delegates arrived yesterday and, several of them arrived today morning as well, both Indian and foreign delegates. About 60 delegates in total are expected to arrive by tonight,” a senior official in the Goa government told PTI.  The two G20 meets come days after cyclone Biparjoy made a landfall in the coastal areas of Gujarat leaving a trail of destruction behind in that western state.

Hectic preparations are underway in Goa for the two key G20 events, which will also bracket the International Yoga Day (IYD) celebrations on June 21.

Preparations have been made keeping in mind heavy monsoon rains but there is “absolutely no concern” at present over any impact on the programmes due to the impending cyclone Biparjoy, a top official in the tourism ministry had said in Delhi on Wednesday.

Cyclone Biparjoy weakened and moved towards south Rajasthan on Friday, after ravaging the Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat on June 15.

An official in Panaji, earlier this week, said with the pre-monsoon spell in Goa, all activities on beaches have come to a standstill and lifeguards have installed red flags at vulnerable spots.  Tourism ministry officials had earlier said that a Yoga session for G20 delegates was planned to take place at Dona Paula beach, but in view of rainy weather in Goa, all Yoga-related events will now be hosted in indoor facilities.

“The G20 ministers will take part in a Yoga session at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium, and get to experience this ancient ethos of India,” a senior official had told PTI in Delhi earlier.

Union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik on Friday conducted a comprehensive review of the preparations for the G20 events.

In conjunction with these events, the Ministry of Tourism has organised celebrations for the IYD at Durbar Hall, Raj Bhavan. All ministers and delegates from G20 nations will actively participate in this session, embracing the spirit of unity and well-being, officials said.

The fourth G20 Tourism Working Group meeting will be held from June 19-20.      The G20 ministerial meeting after the TWG meeting is scheduled to be held from June 21-22, with ministers of tourism from the G20 countries and other invited guests to discuss the outcomes of the previous working group meetings and adopt a joint declaration on tourism cooperation, they said.

All G20 tourism ministers of all member countries, invited countries and heads of international organisations have requested for “bilateral meetings with our tourism minister for mutual cooperation and deliberation on tourism-related matters”, an official said in Delhi earlier.

A number of side events have also been lined up on the sidelines of the main G20 meets.

Promoting cruise tourism as a model for sustainable and responsible travel will be one of the focus areas among the side events.

Officials reiterated that there will be two key deliverables after the Goa meet.

“At the end of our working group meeting and the ministerial meeting, we are going to declare a Goa Roadmap and Action Plan for tourism as a vehicle for achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs),” the official said.

Under India’s G20 Tourism Track, the TWG is working on five inter-connected priority areas — green tourism, digitisation, skills, tourism MSMEs and destination. These priorities are key building blocks for accelerating the transition of the tourism sector and achieving the targets for 2030 SDGs.

Also, there will be a “ministerial communique” that will be released at the end of the tourism working group and other deliberations which will endorse the Goa roadmap.

On June 19, a side event on ‘Making Cruise Tourism a Model for Sustainable and Responsible Travel’ will be organised, focusing on strategies to promote cruise tourism. The event will see the participation of G20 member countries, invited countries, international organisations, and industry stakeholders.

On June 20, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Union Minister of Tourism and Culture G Kishan Reddy, Union Minister of State for Tourism and Shipping Shripad Yesso Naik and Union Minister of State for Tourism and Defence Ajay Bhatt are slated to address the inaugural session of TWG, the officials said, adding there will be two working sessions.

Various cultural programmes will be organised to highlight and showcase the rich cultural heritage of Goa to the G20 delegates like lamp dance, Kathak, Goan Mando music and dance presentation, Dekhni dance, Mussal Khel (pastel dance) and Gomant Rangm, officials said.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to experience the local attractions of Goa. Excursion visits have been planned to Lower Aguada Fort and Jail Museum, and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as churches and convents of Goa viz the Basilica of  Bom Jesus, Church of St Francis of Assisi and Se Cathedral; and Archaeological Museum, they said.  The first Tourism Working Group Meeting of the G20 was held at Runn of Kutch in Gujarat followed by the second one at Siliguri and Darjeeling in West Bengal, and the third one was hosted in Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir.