Does goa deserve good tourists?
I went for a stroll on the Miramar beach last Sunday. I have fond memories of the beach from my childhood. Quite a few Sunday evenings with the family have been spent there. Miramar has a different vibe from the other popular beaches of goa, like Calangute or Colva. Its less ‘touristy’. You won’t find a shack on Miramar beach. Nor will you find the myriad different water sports or hawkers for that matter. While this still remains true, Miramar has changed over the years. Its crowded nowadays. Very crowded.
The crowd hits you even before you step onto the beach. It starts with finding a parking spot. The parking lots are full of a number of Activas and Dios and a pantheon of bikes, all with their Yellow and Black licence plates— a sign that they are one of the thousands of 2 wheelers the tourists can rent while in goa. There are taxis everywhere. We are seeing a lot of buses too lately, from the neighboring states, bringing in picnics from schools and colleges to India’s closest ‘foreign’ destination.
While this presents a huge business opportunity to the thousands of operators in Goa, it’s a sign of a chronic problem that’s only set to grow worse. Our crowds are growing, but we’re not doing anything about them.
For a state that boasts of being one of India’s best tourist destinations, we have little or no Public transport infrastructure. There’s virtually no reliable system to move tourists from one attraction to another. The buses are mostly private and not nearly enough to deal with the kind of numbers we deal with. In most places, buses stop plying by 8pm. The rickshaws are absurdly costly. The taxis shamelessly overcharge. The resources are even more limited as one moves to the interiors of Goa. Most of Goa’s beauty lies in its hinterland. But its rarely accessible to the average tourist.
LACK OF ATTRACTIONS
World over, every tourist destination worth its salt works hard to draw the crowds and keep them happy. Be it the traditional tourist hotspots like France and Italy or the newer debutants like Dubai and Singapore, they invest in the tourism industry in ways that brings in the numbers. Not us. Very little of the ‘Goa Experience’ was built by us. The temples and the churches are what our ancestors left us. The Beaches were an endowment to us that we are all but screwing up. The quaint countryside, the verdant mountains, that almost spiritual rhythm of life are all gifts of a higher power. Our every selling point is a gift we should be thankful for.
OVER CROWDED, OVER COMMERCIALIZED
I don’t know if its what the tourists like, but seeing the Calangute-Baga-Candolim stretch disturbs me. It looks nothing like what the ads promote goa to be. Overcrowded, crassly commercialized and unorganized, it’s a picture of chaos at the peak of the tourist season. Its no different in other places. Panjim in the evenings is traffucked almost every day. The boat cruises try really hard to be fun, but the festive décor looks oddly out of place in the impossible crowd. The crowds and the traffic near the jetty would all but kill the excitement for me. Almost every supposed ‘Tourist attraction’ is horribly mismanaged. The Shacks are overpriced. Popular beaches are dirty. Somehow nothing is like the Goa you’d imagine.
THE WRONG CROWDS
Though often unspoken, we attract a large numbers of tourists of the wrong kind. The domestic tourist looking for cheap booze and ‘foreign girls’ treat goa like a lawless land. The international tourists have made Goa the drug capital of india. These are the kinda tourists we could do without. And yet, we are doing nothing to curb them. Till we work on reducing this menace, we are not gonna move up the tourism value chain. We need to attract the refined crowds, who bring value to us. But to attract them, we need to create value first.
I realize Goa is still an oasis in the cacophony that is most of India. It takes me just a few days outside goa to start feeling fortunate to be born a goan. Almost everyone else envies you for being a goan. But every goan knows his state is changing. Changing fast. We are fast destroying our limited USPs. We are almost aggressively complacent about the very things we owe our industry to and continue to milk them to their limits. The abuse is evident everywhere. We are sitting on a time bomb. We are fast killing what Goa has offered to outsiders for so long—peace of mind. And we are not developing alternate attractions. We are squeezing the Beaches beyond their capacity. We are not doing nearly enough to make our tourists feel safe.
I can’t speak for everyone, but if I was a tourist visiting Goa, I’d feel cheated.