Friday, August 30, 2013

The curious case of Tourism in Goa

In as complex and diverse country as ours, Goa joined late, well a good 14 years after India was independent.  “Estado da India” (Portuguese state of India) became a union territory and later a full-fledged state. Influenced by over 450 years of Portuguese rule and Latin culture, Goa presents a somewhat different representation of India. It was not long before tourists started pouring in to experience the unique lifestyle and culture the state had to offer along with the pristine beaches. 

Hippies from Europe where the first to arrive in the late 60’s with their alternative way of life inspired by ideas of the peace, love and travel, In Goa they felt free from the cultural morals & also fell in love with this tropical paradise. The Goans were indifferent to the new guests, they were too laid back to bother, if at all they were only curious about these semi naked whites. Small gatherings of hippies playing guitar and smoking pot started getting famous, more & more youngsters started visiting the shores of Goa for the experience, the gatherings started to grow and along with it grew the demand for different types of drugs. Cocaine & Hashish started to make its way from Nepal & Himachal in the North to Goa. This is not the only legacy of the hippies though; they are credited for single handedly putting Goa on the tourist map. We wonder how but their travels caught attention of the discerning traveler and in came the gentlemen & the ladies. This is a fete worth studying as many good destinations have not managed it even with huge marketing spends and of course the great help from fecebook & twitter.

In 1971 the first 5 star resort of Goa was opened, followed by many more hotels, home-stays and lodges. The rest as they say is history. Today almost four decades after the first tourists came the hippy image of Goa in most places have been replaced by up market and middle market tourist values. Goa is now a thriving hub of classy places, some of the best international hospitality and tourism brands are here. Today you could have a traditional Burmese meal at Bomras or enjoy the best of Greek food at Thalassa or dig into delicious French pastries at Delicieux. Entrepreneurs have found success and are dishing out their skills and innovations in every aspect of catering to a tourist. The tourists are enjoying this new avatar of Goa which pampers them with choices and options. 

In the midst of all this progress and value for money holiday experience, the average Goan is in a dilemma. The growing tourism industry needs a growing work force and due to the sudden burst in demand there is a large influx of migrants. Now the very culture and lifestyle that lured in the tourists in the first place is at threat. 40% of Goan population is of non Goan origin. Goans might be a minority in their own state in a few years time. The continuous migration of talented Goans who want to pursuit anything other than tourism is not helping either. I guess these are the challenges of a small state and ethnic community in a big country.

The easy going Goans are very liberal to anybody who wants to set shop. If you do a comparison with Kerala you will find in Kerala most of the big businesses are owned, partnered or managed by Malyalees unlike in Goa where it is the other way round. The options for Goans are limited; it sure will be prosperous but the sad part is that prosperity will be accompanied by frustration of seeing their home land transform into a place which does not cater to their own art, music and culture. These frustrations sometimes erupt and off late there is disturbing news of clashes of locals with tourists. 

Tourism always has a price to pay. We fear there would be nothing Goan about Goa soon,

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Proffesionall Hazzards

Question from a prospective client – “I found another package online which is including eight beaches, while your itinerary includes only three beaches in the itinerary”?
I am sure that every professional from any field might have come across questions which might be quiet elementary to them but still extremely complicated to the clients. To address these questions is what we get paid for but sometimes you are at loss of words to explain the reasons behind your suggestions.

I am sure I might have asked a few stupid questions to my carpenter or web developer, at the end, it all depends on how good a professional you have hired. The understanding of your client and his aspirations are the key.  It is also essential to have a little understanding of the cultural, social and economic background. No school or course trains you for this, it is very instinctive and most of these profiles are established subconsciously. Most importantly it is also how much you are willing to trust your vendor or expertise. Some previous experiences & pre conceived notions may sometimes influence your decisions which may save you from a bad experience or may even create one for you.  

The challenges in the travel trade are that many a times we have to communicate to the end user though a coordinator or administrator. In such a case we completely relay on the understanding & efficiency of the coordinator for the end result. Tourism like the film industry is one of such products where you buy the product without physically seeing or experiencing it firsthand. It is imperative that the product and the sequence of events be explained elaborately.

We had the opportunity to organize an offsite event for one of Indias leading IT brands. The brief given to us was very simple, the team wanted to go for a one night off beat experience and this they wanted it to be part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) basically they wanted to go to some place where they could do some team building activity, have some fun as well as take part in some social concern. This is something we had never done before, it was challenging yet within our domain of expertise.  As it was huge corporate entity they had very strict processes and protocols which did not allow us to do a presentation about the whole experience to the whole team, instead we had to communicate the same through emails to the administrator who was not even going to be traveling with the team.    

The end result, a group of frustrated IT professionals who thought that they were finally going to have some free luxurious get away from the company, you could guess how the evening might have been for all of us when the question by one of the team members was “I hope there is a good spa in the resort we are staying tonight”?

This is just one scenario; unfortunately there is nothing much we can do about it. The measures we generally take to counter such anticipation and aspiration is to communicate in such way that we help draw very murky picture in the clients mind and then deliver a product which is above his expectations with plenty of surprises and pampering but for this also we need to communicate with the end user.