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Online travel agencies barred from booking in unlicensed hotels

PANAJI: In a measure aimed at addressing the concern of unlicensed hotels in the state which was raised by stakeholders, the government has made it compulsory for online travel service providers to undertake bookings of only those hotels which are registered.

The hotel or the tourist accommodation for which online bookings are accepted must be registered under the Goa Registration of Tourist Trade (Amendment) Act, 2019, said the government in a notification published in the official gazette.

Earlier on January 31, 2019, to regulate the online travel service providers, the government had amended Goa Registration of Tourist Trade Act and included online players under it. Further, vide the notification on February 26, the government had inserted a new chapter (IV-B) in the Act which makes it mandatory for online travel service providers to only take bookings for registered hotels.

According to local tourism stakeholders, the problem of illegal hotels is rife in the state with online travel companies being the main culprits in accepting bookings in unlicensed accommodation.

The Small and Medium Hoteliers Association (SMHA) has estimated 50 per cent of room capacity in the state as unregistered and said that the illegal sector in room capacity is on par with the registered sector.

SMHA president Serafino Cota said that the new notification is welcome as it will “bring some order on online travel companies and also earn revenues to the state.”

Cota however pointed out that the notification is worded “terribly and ambiguous.”  He said that the government does not say how it will crack down on unregistered players, especially the trend of outsiders building housing complexes and clandestinely operating it as hotels.

The state hospitality industry is complaining of extremely poor tourist arrivals in the ongoing season and said that the tourism industry lacks regulation.

According to SMHA, unregistered hotels are one of the main reasons for the hospitality industry’s poor performance in the ongoing season since they accept bookings at very low rates. The bookings of accommodation in unregistered hotels is by online players, said the association.

The SMHA is demanding a meeting with the tourism minister to discuss the problem of unregistered hotels.

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