Panaji, June 24 (IANS) Goa may be a hub for young Israeli tourists seeking fun and the "trip" on drugs, but trade and industry stakeholders are set to make a real trip to the conflict-stricken country to learn lessons on rural tourism.
Israel has a rich tradition of religious tourism, as several Christian pilgrimage sites are located within its borders. Goa too expects to more fully exploit its potential for religious tourism.
Now, a contingent of over 40 members of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is set to land in Jerusalem next month, in the hope of learning what technology can do to better the state's sagging milk production and agricultural output.
"There is a lot to learn from Israel... They have a very good rural tourism circuit, where they have made small rural places into tourism destinations. Goa too has great potential because it has a beautiful landscape which is still untapped. We should be able to come back richer," GCCI's outgoing president Manguirish Pai Raikar told IANS.
Raikar said that rural tourism could involve simple innovations like building small fishing platforms, where anglers could camp and fish. It could also mean exposing classic village lives and routines to tourists, many of whom have had enough of beach tourism.
"There are temples and churches, rivers and lakes in Goa which we can exploit, like Israel has," Raikar said.
The tourism department is already in the process of developing a religious tourism circuit with Israel. Israel's pilgrimage sites could prove a huge draw for Goa's Christians, who comprise 26 percent of the state's population.
Goa's efforts to boost its relations with Israel is part of a pan-India focus on bilateral trade with the West Asian country. Both countries hope to triple their trade from the present $5 billion to $15 billion within two years.
One of the key areas of cooperation between the two countries is agriculture, and the use of technology in growing crops.
While states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra have already utilised the Indo-Israeli Action Plan on Agriculture Cooperation, Goa, which this year made agriculture a thrust area in its budget, is gearing to sign up.
"Two areas we want to seek cooperation from Israel in are use of technology and agriculture," Raikar said, adding that there was a possibility of some joint ventures being signed during the Israel trip.
Goa is a deficit state, when it comes to both agriculture as well as dairy products, and relies on neighbouring states to supplement its need for fresh vegetables, fruit, grain and milk.
While trade, technology and tourism knowhow from Israel is top on the minds of businessmen and government mandarins here, Goa's Roman Catholic Church has not been too happy with Israeli tourists, many of whom, it is believed, land in Goa for a "blast" after their compulsory stint in the armed forces.
A book published two years ago by a group of seminarians (priests-in-training in the Catholic Church) claimed Israeli tourists were "de-humanised" by the acts they have to perform while under conscription, and arrive in Goa only to indulge in drugs, sex and debauchery.
Former union minister of state for external affairs Eduardo Faleiro too has claimed that Israeli tourists bring more "menace than benefit" to the state.
"There is abundant evidence that Israeli tourists cause enormous damage to the social and cultural fabric of our state. They do not contribute to the Goan economy. They want to derive maximum benefit from minimum expenditure," Faleiro had said.