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Improvement of public toilets to boost tourism in Goa

Introduction

The serene beaches, picturesque environment and unique heritage have been a competitive asset to Goa's tourism industry. While the government invests heavily in tourist infrastructure, investment in public toilets to support tourism is yet to grab serious attention of policy makers. Various studies highlight the direct link between sanitation and tourism. Availability of hygienic and comfortable public toilets is extremely important for the touristic State of Goa, which is one of the favourite tourist destinations globally. Goa's first air conditioned public toilet built in 2011 at Margao in South Goa, created much uproar in the State Legislative Assembly gaining tremendous media attention. Along with the debate on the rationalization of public expenditure, a simultaneous question that triggered civic minds was that of whether public toilets are accessible in terms of comfort, hygiene and safety.

Improvement of Public Toilets to Boost Tourism

Various countries have made significant progress in designing public toilets especially at tourist attraction centres. For instance, Paris has made several efforts in improving public toilets by increasing the number of toilets, making them user-friendly, more hygienic and safe with added comforts, improved access for the disabled, and has incorporated eco-friendly techniques and mechanisms as well. Japan has also introduced high-tech toilets that offer heated seats, bidet jets, and odour neutralisers in tourist areas. Many developed countries now boast of luxury toilets that have even made it to the list of the best toilets in the world. One such public toilet that was listed the best toilet in 2015 is at Stegastein lookout, along one of Norway's National Tourist Routes 'Aurlandsfjellet'. The toilet with contemporary design constructed on the edge of a cliff has the distinct feature of allowing users for a spectacular view across the fjord. China realised that the availability of hygienic, comfortable and user-friendly public toilets are key to improving tourist arrivals. The Chinese President has launched a three year toilet revolution campaign with a focus on constructing and renovating public toilets to promote tourism to support economic growth. The country aims to reach international standards and has incorporated several eco-initiatives including energy and water saving features in the new toilets.

The State of Goa, with heavy dependency on the tourism sector needs a serious facelift of its public toilets. In 2015, tourist arrivals were recorded at 5.2 million tourists, which was a 30.54 per cent increase as compared to the previous year. World Bank's economic assessment of sanitation has highlighted the economic benefits of improved sanitation on the tourist industry. Goa currently with around 3358 hotels (63 of them being in star category), has the potential for further augmenting its tourism industry with adequate improvement in infrastructure, including improved toilets. Most tourists in Goa travel across the state to explore the region during their stay (estimated to be 5 days for domestic tourist and 9 days for international tourist), and need to use public toilets. Studies have highlighted the experience and use of toilet facilities is indeed a factor for tourist dissatisfaction. Thus, the improvement of sanitation in general, and enhancement of public toilets in the state in particular, is absolutely necessary for delivering better experience at the various tourist destinations, and thereby support the tourist industry that employs about 30 per cent the state's population.

A popular tourist destination of Goa, the capital city of Panjim has only 16 public toilets while the floating population (including tourists) on an average each day in the city is 15,300. The city sanitation plan of Panjim highlights inadequacies in terms of low usage, and insufficient numbers of toilet seats and urinals in public spaces. Poor maintenance and aesthetic surroundings, lack of water supply and the lack of appropriate signage are reasons for low usage of public toilets. With a large number of development initiatives undertaken in the city under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for 2016-17, investment in public toilets must also have high priority.

Revamping and constructing new public toilets across the state should be a priority in the Swachh Bharat Mission. The private sector needs to pitch in to support the sanitation sector and support the introduction of improved public toilets in various tourist destinations. State sanitation plans should strategically include well-designed public toilets that are safe, clean and hygienic with good ventilation with adequate operation and maintenance to cater to the needs of children, women, men, including the disabled that would enhance the image of the tourist state.

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