Goa with its tranquil beaches, picturesque sceneries, and peace-loving and welcoming locals has always made it a favoured destination among foreigners and Indians alike. Way back in the 1960s this little state was discovered by the carefree hippie crowd and the frequent visits by Western travelers in the following years only sought to increase the popularity of Goa. But lately, the sudden drop in tourism has made tourism stakeholder suffer what is the reason behind this? Has the dark clouds of an Irresponsible Tourism has taken away the sunshine of Goa?
The rise in the influx of desi or Indian tourists then led to everyone in the tourism business to claim a share in the tourism pie, the dark side of it began to raise its ugly head around a decade back.
Goa soon acquired an unwelcome reputation as the land of cheap alcohol, drugs and sex and tis further degraded its image. The years have seen a lot of debates, denials and well as a reluctance to admit whether Goa could handle such social, economic and behavioral changes in order to keep up with other states promoting themselves as premier tourist destinations.
Goa has been finding ways and means to stay top of the charts as far as tourism is concerned, but is it too late to salvage its image?
Celebrities, as well as tourism stakeholders, put their views across on the situation.
Wendell Rodricks, the fashion designer is of the opinion that a lack of planning and foresight was responsible for the current situation. He pointed out to the apathy of the government officials, the ineffective police force that is controlled by politicians, the laid back goan public, the media who is afraid to voice out the truth, for the current situation in Goa.
Cajetan Vaz, a branding consultant feels that changing the image of Goa would now be a difficult task given the way it is portrayed on Social media. “Alcohol is very cheap and available at every nook and corner; films portray Goa as full of raves, commercial sex, full moon parties and shady entertainment spots where drugs are freely available.”
Vaz also says that this image can be balanced and even overthrown by creating wholesome media content that highlights the many positive attributes of Goa.
Vaz further points out that Goa needs to manage its image crisis more efficiently especially when it comes to natural calamities, stray incidents of crime, or the last roadblock, the crash of Thomas Cook.
Aloo Gomes Pereira of Trail Blazer Tours India says that the reason why Goa is a favored destination among Indian tourists is for the sense of freedom that the state offers.
Goa has seen an increase in domestic arrivals over the past decade while the number of foreign visitors has been on the decline. Goa Tourism has quoted the arrival of 70 lakh domestic tourists and 9.3 lakh international tourists in 2018.
Rodricks warns that if the Government does not change its focus from adult tourism to family tourism, the quality of tourism and tourists will only deteriorate until it reaches a point of no return.
Atish Fernandes, the director of First Class Holidays says that as long as casinos were made the center of attraction for visitors to the state, as well as sex, drugs, and booze seeking tourists, there is not much hope to change the image of the State.
Stakeholders feel that Goa needs to undergo a total image makeover and promote itself as a family-friendly destination.
Rodricks points out that Goa has taken the Bangkok route with only adult entertainment. He said this only paves the way for noisy raves, drunken tourists, cheap, poor quality food and low-end tourists who don’t respect the environment thus driving away sustainable luxury tourism.
Some though point out to the flaw in the plan. Goa as a state has been projected as a party destination and it caters to a varied crowd, and any deviation from the same would not be too practical.
Tourism Secretary, J Ashok Kumar points out that the strategy of promoting Goa beyond beaches has helped. Various activities such as monsoon treks and cycling tours offer tourists the chance to visit the quaint villages of Goa, have received a good response.
He also pointed out that white water rafting in the monsoons has gained popularity and the newly introduced bungee jumping facility will help attract the same popularity.
He also added that the tourism body never projected or promoted Goa as the land of drugs, alcohol, and raves. “We can’t say there are no drugs and everything is clean” Telling the world that Goa is free from drugs and raves won’t work, says the official.
Now Goa needs to reinvent itself and come up with a strategy to compete with other tourism destinations, in order to attract a new segment of tourists and to focus on high-end visitors which one graced the state of Goa.
Vaz concludes with “We are facing headwinds. As a brand, we are strong. We need to focus on improving the delivery of the brand experience.”
Goa has and will always be the ultimate destination for tourist. It is up to the people, the government authorities and stakeholders to project Goa as a world-class tourism destination.
Credits: The original article was written by Ms. Bindiya Chari for the Times of India.