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 Today almost four decades after the first tourists came the hippy image of Goa in most places have been replaced by up market and middle market tourist values.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,