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Goa Tourism: How can the declining quality be reversed?

Goa Tourism: How can the declining quality be reversed?

Goa Plunge

Goa Tourism: How can the declining quality be reversed?

2023-24 tourism cycle has been a rude shock. How sustainable is the Goa tourism industry if it continues on the current path?

Nestled along the sun-drenched shores of India’s west coast, Goa has long been cherished for its relaxed charm, slow life, vibrant culture, and pristine beaches. Often referred to as Susegad, derived from the Portuguese word sossegado (quiet). Initially very popular amongst international tourists, over the years, it has changed from becoming an aspirational place to a must-visit every year for domestic travellers. Goa also, for its essence, made its way into Indian pop culture as a place to slow down and break from the mundane. However, recent shifts in tourist dynamics have necessitated a critical reevaluation – how sustainable is the Goa tourism industry if it continues on the current path? As someone who has witnessed Goa’s evolving charm over the years, I am hopeful for positive change and course correction yet concerned as a resident with a lack of action.

Wake-up Call for Goa

In 2023, Goa experienced a startling 25% decline in tourist arrivals compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. It is alarming that over the past five years, there has been a 40% increase in beach pollution and marine litter, which needs urgent attention to maintain ecological balance and promote sustainable tourism. Right in the middle of the tourist season, November 2023 to March 2024 saw Goa the quietest I have seen (barring the COVID period) in many years. It was even devastating for many businesses that went belly up or struggled to make ends meet. 

However, this downturn can be seen as an opportunity to regroup and heal Goa, diversify its offerings, and encourage people to stay longer and responsibly explore Goa like never before. The challenges Goa’s tourism faces are clear, and the time for a healing process that balances attracting quality tourists and safeguarding the local community is the only way forward.

Current Trends and Challenges

Goa’s quest to become an exclusive getaway has inadvertently distanced it from its affordability roots. To remain competitive in the global tourism market, Goa must redefine itself by reintroducing affordability alongside quality and exclusivity. Comparisons with South-East Asian destinations can highlight numerous areas, such as travel costs. Where high flight and hotel tariffs weren’t enough, even homestays and Airbnb costs have skyrocketed. It’s not just the cost going up; the quality is also declining for every dollar spent. Constant comparison with destinations like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and even the expensive Maldives is inevitable. Where the aspirational Indian traveller is attracted to the thought of an international location, the global traveller also finds it cost-effective to choose something else over Goa.

Safety and security enhancements are imperative, especially given recent incidents involving crime and drug abuse. Where it is a cyclical problem, the issue of transportation, both public, taxis and rented, needs cost control. Where local businesses charge high due to low footfall, high charges simultaneously repel tourists. And with Uber and Ola still failing to take off in Goa, the cost and safety of travelling locally in Goa are quickly becoming an important factor in decisions. Addressing infrastructure issues, public transportation and waste management facilities will contribute to a positive tourist experience, the effects of which can cascade to present Goa in a new light.

Environmental concerns such as beach pollution, public nuisances, and open defecation require urgent attention. Reports indicate an increase in open defecation on popular beaches, often due to tourists lacking proper sanitation facilities. While sanitation facilities need to be worked upon, there is a need to check the tourists and make them accountable. Charging entry fees in certain areas, fines for littering, restricting the movement of large vehicles like private buses, etc., could be some steps. Raising awareness about Goa’s philosophy of environmental consciousness, littering, and respecting public spaces must be communicated by setting some rules to preserve its natural beauty and foster a healthier environment for residents.

Also read: Calangute Panchayat Goa to Set Up Checkpoints to Curb Illegal Activities and Implement Entry Tax for Tourists

Re-branding Goa

A multifaceted approach is necessary to truly revive Goa’s tourism. Nationally, re-branding Goa beyond its beaches, parties, and nightlife, leveraging its cultural richness, and promoting responsible tourism practices can attract diverse domestic markets. Internationally, promoting eco-friendly initiatives, cleanliness and safety, luxurious escapes, adventure activities, and authentic cultural experiences can win back the global audience.

Collaboration and Community Engagement

Collaboration is key to sustainable development. Public-private partnerships, community engagement, and technology adoption can ensure equitable benefits for the industry and local communities. Engaging local communities in tourism planning and development can foster a sense of ownership and responsibility, ensuring their active involvement and benefits.

Offering financial incentives, such as tax breaks and subsidies, can encourage the growth of responsible tourism businesses and infrastructure. Public awareness campaigns are essential to educating both tourists and locals about responsible tourism practices, environmental protection, and the significance of preserving Goa’s unique culture and heritage. Data-driven decision-making, involving the collection and analysis of tourism data, can guide policy formulation and resource allocation.

Transform Now

Goa tourism stands at a critical juncture. The only way to restore the receding charm and ensure course correction is to embrace transformative policies, prioritise sustainability, and actively involve local communities.

Goa is not just a place; it’s a feeling. Let’s protect that feeling. As a Goan at heart, I believe in the power of collective action, as the people I have interacted with on the ground are fed up and need something to be done now. With some tough love, we can ensure that Goa remains a vibrant and sustainable paradise for generations to come.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the publication



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