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Tourism industry fears ban will hit business



MARGAO/PANAJI: The ban on transportation of fish from other states which is slated to kick in from Monday has set alarm bells ringing in the hospitality industry with stakeholders describing the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) move as “ridiculous” and a “major irritant”.
Luxury resorts, standalone hotels, restaurants and shacks, which cater largely to tourists, are worried about the impact on their business once fish and seafood goes off their menus.

“Banning fish imports for six months is a ridiculous decision,” said president of Shack Owners’ Welfare Society of Goa Cruz Cardozo.

The move to restrict fish imports was bound to create a few hiccups. But for Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), the “drastic action” is yet another example of the state government’s flawed decision making. “This matter has been mishandled right from day one. You can’t take such drastic action without consulting the trade and industry,” said TTAG president Savio Messias. “Every three months we have a drastic policy that affects tourists directly.” He pointed out that last season the demonetization decision hurt the industry and it was followed by the taxi strike.

“This sends a bad signal to tourists about Goa,” he said. The owner of a chain of restaurants known for its fish thali, said that prices of fish had already increased by two to three times. “When there is more demand and less supply, the prices will increase,” the owner told TOI on condition of anonymity.

According to stakeholders, 80% of the business at the wholesale fish market in Fatorda comes from the hospitality industry or commercial sector. Around 40-50 pick-ups from Malvan and Karwar that used to transport fish, which remained fresh due to the proximity to Goa, sustained many restaurants and hotels. Stopping transportation will put pressure on prices, say restaurateurs. “It is already difficult for us to keep prices constant. We cannot raise the prices immediately but how long can we take on the burden,” said the restaurateur.

Surprisingly, the South Goa Hotels and Restaurant Owners Association has come out in support of the decision. “This will ensure that only unadulterated and hygienic fish is available in Goa,” C P Jaggi, president of the association told TOI.

“Safety of tourists should be of paramount importance. The government has done the right thing,” he said. The ban, Jaggi said, will have minimal impact. “Whatever fish is available in Goan waters is quite sufficient for Goans to consume,” he said.

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