With the Governor Smt. Mridula Sinha deciding to throw open her stately residence for public during the weekends, let us sincerely hope that tourism in the state has got the much needed fillip it has been yearning for. But with Goa fighting the bane of tourism, it becomes difficult to understand what exactly the government needs to do to promote clean and healthy tourism in the state.
After the mining imbroglio, tourism as that lifeline of Goan economy should have been receiving the sort of attention which could bode well for a healthy fiscal situation for the state. But with the state tourism ministry in the line of fire these days, the Tourism Minister has been facing the flak with aggrieved voices being raised against him from every possible corner for a poor tourism season.
The accusations heaped have caused a snowball effect that has made the Department of Tourism in Goa the least popular one. It is not only the deepening features within the ruling coalition that is giving headaches to the Parrikar-ensemble in Goa. The increasing voices of dissent rising from within the ranks of the BJP have emboldened even party legislators to publicly condemn the chaotic workings of the government.
Now, with the presentation on the Tourism Master Plan for the state witnessing a turnout of just four legislators, the seriousness of the government in the exercise to which it has committed a substantial amount of public money is being questioned. Time and again the state’s ‘penchant’ for soliciting low-end tourism has admittedly invited visitors to Goa who have had more of nuisance value than anything glaringly discernible about them.
As has been rightly observed, the reluctance in enforcing discipline along the coastal belt with tourists showing a strong affinity for drinking, eating and making merry on the beaches and public thoroughfares with an impudence that is infectious has brought about a situation where the government has become apprehensive about imposing any such stringent measure which could have a direct bearing on the dwindling footfalls to the state.
The trash that Goa has been welcoming to the state in the name of tourism for quite some time now portends a trend where it’s quantitative, and not the qualitative aspect will gain active endorsement. As it is, the apparent bias shown towards promoting South Goa as an equally vibrant tourist destination has resulted in North Goan beaches featuring as THE face of tourism in the state.
The crowds thronging the beaches at Calangute, Baga and Anjuna in the north clearly exemplify this ‘discrimination’. It is not that Colva or the Palolem beach down south are any inferior when it comes to the scenic splendour they afford visitors to these sandy shores. With the mad rush witnessed at these places, it was but natural that over a period of years the existing infrastructure would not sustain the tremendous load any further.
In this regard, the state tourism ministry has been grossly guilty of overlooking and planning for these eventualities. Whenever we talk of sustainable tourism, it is observed that the tendency to equate the term with the ‘sustainability’ attribute of the whole enterprise and exploiting it to the point of exhaustion of the available resources has spelt doom for tourism in general.
Blessed with nature’s bounties, Goa continues to be a land of unexploited potentials from the tourism point of view. Yet the reluctance shown in expanding its horizons compels the government to fall back on techniques that are obsolete and do not do justice to the untouched magnificence of the state waiting to be tapped for its true worth. Not unlike the rest of the country, Goa too lives in its villages. It’s a different matter altogether that with the rapid urbanization witnessed, it has become difficult to say where the city ends and the rural limit makes itself evident.
However the villages in Goa present visages that could enamour those smitten by the travel bug. But rather than develop these scenic acres, the government has only played mute spectator to the locals quickly cashing in on the prospects of providing accommodation to the tourists by letting out their residential premises. The profusion of bright red billboards with the words OYO embossed on them screaming from atop buildings and homes in and around prime tourist locations makes the invasion by budget-hotel networks in Goa near complete.
Attracting more and more of local entrepreneurs keen on ‘tying-up’ with them to avail the benefits of the booming business, it is sad that the pronounced emphasis on ‘staying facilities’ is alluring them more than the idea of developing the region with an eye on tourism for their sustenance.
Carried away by the possibilities of managing tourism related activities as it is done in some foreign nations, the government has been rather flippant about utilizing resources at its disposal to promote tourism in the state. The ‘Hop On Hop Off’ Goa City Sightseeing Bus Tour which offers guests the unique experience of a bus travel to enjoy a number of attractions on the route gives the visitor the opportunity to board the bus at any of the 28 designated bus stops covering the tour in South central and North Goa is indeed a novelty, but has the venture been able to capture the imagination of the tourists for the appreciations to have spread to attract more of the ilk!
Similarly, the first-of-its-kind walkway over the mangroves for visitors to explore; the ‘Mangrove Boardwalk’ over the Ourem creek at Patto gives a visitor an insight into the many types of mangrove species, the wildlife of the area and a call for a close interaction with nature. News that GTDC will soon focus on heritage tourism by developing a few locales from their historical point of view and some for hosting cultural events could well be that impetus the state tourism required to get it out of the rut.
Tourism should always be about searching for apt avenues to make it possible for preserving and exhibiting the favourable features of the region with a distinct thrust on the local traditions and customs.
The governor has taken the initiative to usher in a new dawn for Goan tourism. It is now for the department of tourism to elaborate on its ambitious proposals! It is however essential that the stakeholders are taken into confidence while formulating new tourism policies. A tourism policy that is in sync with the ‘essential features’ of Goa should auger well for the state.
(Published on 28th January 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 05)