The 3rd Marine Tourism Conference, held during the India Yachting Festival in Goa on January 27, evoked a positive response from the Indian boating industry. Organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and held at the Le Meridien, Calangute, the event attracted 15 speakers and 100 delegates from across the industry in India and surrounding countries.

Speakers included Neil Fernando, chairman of Neil Marine Sri Lanka; Fabiomassimo Discoli, head of sales at Ferretti Group Asia; and Atreya Sawant, chairman of Mandovi Drydocks and head of the CII Goa Chapter.

There was a considerable speaker presence from the government and associations showing the increasing importance of leisure boating on the national agenda. Speakers from the government included Dr Satheesha Babu, director of the National Institute of Watersports; Rear Admiral Shekhar Mittal, chairman and managing director of Goa Shipyard Ltd; Siddharth Satardekar, president of the Goa Yachting Association; James Braganza, Captain of Ports, Goa; and Gautama Dutta of the Indian Marine Federation and event director for the India Yachting Festival.

Delivering the welcome address, Atreya Sawant spoke of the growth of marine and adventure tourism in India. He highlighted tourism statistics that showed how an increasing number of people were visiting coastal areas and enjoying boating and watersports.

Fabiomassimo Discoli then spoke of the relevance of the yachting industry in boosting tourism and contributing to the growth of the local economy along the coastal areas. “The government of India should consider the number of jobs marinas and yachts can provide and hence view the yachting industry as a vital component for the growth of tourism and the economy,” he said. “There should be no extra tax burden on yachts and instead the government should look at providing incentives for people to buy boats and enjoy the coastline of India.”

The first panel discussion was on ‘Global Trends in Marine Tourism and Opportunities for India’. Moderator Gautama Dutta highlighted the potential of India to be a top global destination. He stated the important need for India was to invest in developing basic facilities for recreational boats to dock at the tourist spots along the coast of India. Dutta also gave the vision for the India Yachting Festival to grow into a major boating event that helps potential boat owners in India experience yachting and connect with the yachting industry.

Neil Fernando emphasised the trend in marine tourism in Asia – particularly Sri Lanka, where increasing numbers of tourists are visiting to enjoy activities like diving, sport fishing and whale watching.

The panel discussion on ‘Exploring Goa’s Beaches and Rivers for Tourism’ was a lively one with Captain James Braganza enlightening everyone about the government of Goa’s initiatives to refurbish and build new jetties to support marine tourism.

Siddharth Satardekar said: “The Goa Yachting Association was running programs aimed at getting young children familiar with the sea – by teaching them how to sail and windsurf.”

There were environmental concerns about capacity and sustainability raised during the question hour and the panelists explained the environmental safeguard mechanisms in place to allay fears.

Summing up the discussions, Hemant Arondekar of the CII stated how relevant the Conference on Marine Tourism was in bringing the boating industry together with the policy makers of India. He thanked the panelists and audience, adding that a white paper summing up the content of the conference would be presented by the CII to the government of India.

Gautama Dutta, event director of the India Yachting Festival and co-organiser of the conference with the CII, said: “We plan to grow the Marine Tourism Conference next year and put it on the international platform. The conference works very well as part of the three-day India Yachting Festival which includes races and exhibits of boats, services and equipment.”