BY BASILIO MONTEIRO
A few decades ago, two small countries gained independence after almost two hundred years of colonisation, and both are water-bound quasi-islands. Singapore – with very limited nonrenewable resources and Jamaica – blessed with bauxite and alumina. Both launched themselves on the path of economic development.
Singapore invested in education and a market-based economy with manufacturing services, high technology and high finance industries. While Jamaica took advantage of extractable resources, bauxite and alumina, it also made the tourism industry its primary source of revenue.
The outcomes of the economic development of these two countries are there for everyone to see. Over the years, primary drivers of the tourism industry in Jamaica have been taken over by foreign corporations, depriving the state of essential revenue.
Decades of use and abuse of Jamaica’s ecosystem by an unsustainable volume of hedonistic tourists, have left it significantly degraded – the very thing that was marketed to draw tourists.
Beach-based self-indulging tourism has ravaged the once tranquil and flourishing oasis. Jamaica is struggling to keep its head above the water.
Tourists are not travellers. Humans have an inner drive to travel and explore the beyond.
Humans travel far and wide driven by curiosity to know, desire to learn, and the eagerness to understand the unfamiliar and appreciate diverse cultures.
Travellers respect local cultures and make an effort to learn local idioms to understand regional customs and thus enhance their experiences. There is the exploration of local cuisine to understand history and human ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit and the wisdom of the ancestors.
A curiosity to understand why people do what they do while they develop a greater appreciation for the local ecosystem is very much part of the psyche of the traveller.
They are not in a rush to move on to see attractions but take time to enlighten themselves and return much enriched.
As life-long learners, they recognise what St Bernard said: "You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters,” and what Leonardo da Vinci said: “Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else.”
Tourism is a quick, profit-making pseudo-industry, focused on generating large numbers of tourists, after all, the more people, the greater the profit. Customer turnover is the basic ingredient of the business model.
To accommodate large numbers of people in small spaces, the tourism industry destroys the very thing that has been presented as a tourist attraction. The promoters of the tourism industry shrewdly engage in continuously Disney-fying the natural ecosystem and building Potemkin villages to dazzle and lure unsuspecting tourists.
Tourists in general are not of the upscale variety, whose interest is in checking off the list of self-gratification and feeling satisfied that they have got their money’s worth. Thus, they can boast “I was there, I have seen it”.
The current proposal to promote green tourism in Goa is a bold fraud foisted on the citizens of Goa in the name of progress. There is no such thing as green tourism despite the attempts to green-wash tourism.
Tourism, by definition, is unsustainable. The beaches of Goa are increasingly losing that natural allure with hotel structures coming up everywhere to accommodate the ever-increasing volume of hedonistic tourists, who are mindlessly entertained by overexploited local talent.
The reckless and shabby construction of the transportation arteries is added stress on the ecology of the state.
Despite the observable and measurable climate changes the greed-driven recklessness to make Goa a tourist destination, ostensibly to generate revenue, which assuredly benefits a few powerful, is flabbergasting.
Is there, among the political class and policymakers, a smidgen of conscience that would awaken them to the greater good of society?
It is rather mindboggling to observe how our sensibilities and aesthetics are colonised by the glitter of Disney-fication.
The beholden policymakers, the two-bit politicians, the notorious builders/developers and the shameless money-laundering class have no compunction to defang, declaw, strip the nature and convert it into a saccharine storybook version of itself, in return for some silver coins.
Could they re-imagine a wholesome progressive economy by embracing nature?
Why do the good netizens of Goa not become outraged by the brutal mauling of the very thing that makes Goa the cradle of human sanity? Is tourism the only source of revenue for Goa?
Maybe Singapore would fire our imagination… Perhaps the impending persistent flooding at every corner of Goa when the rainy skies cough up a bit?
Perhaps a vehicular tragedy of one the prominent sons or daughters of the reigning political class, God forbid, will awaken the calcified consciences and the ossified minds? After all – what is PROGRESS?!