Panaji: Under fire from the opposition for going on a state Tourism Ministry-funded jaunt to the UAE, Goa Deputy Chief Minister and Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar on Wednesday said that the overseas tour was undertaken after seeking government permission.
Ajgaonkar, who has been accused of promoting Goa as a destination for cheap alcohol and casinos at the Arabian Tourism Mart held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), also said that efforts were on to make Goa an attractive tourist destinations based purely on its indigenous identity.
“All my official foreign tours are undertaken only after obtaining prior approvals and permissions from all concerned authorities. I always insist on maintaining total transparency in my departments,” Ajgaonkar said.
“My family members have individually taken care of their tour expenditure, and the government has not spent anything on their expenses. Those who seek any clarifications can file RTI and get all information,” he said.
Ajgaonkar also slammed tourism industry stakeholders for criticising his foreign trip in interviews to the media, and urged them to “refrain from criticism and work hard to bring discipline in the tourism business in Goa and make Goa a tourist-friendly destination”.
“I am working hard for making Goa the world’s number one tourist destination and my vision is to promote Goa with its Goan identity.”
On Tuesday, state Congress president Girish Chodankar had accused Ajgaonkar of squandering public money for overseas jaunts for himself and his family in the name of tourism promotion.
The controversy comes at a time when Goa is witnessing a dip in tourism arrivals, which has been cited as a cause for concern by travel and tourism industry stakeholders, who have also accused the Ministry of splurging on marketing and promotion without thought.
Last year too, a trip to the US by Ajgaonkar and his family had stirred controversy.