BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
As Sao Tome in Panjim bustles with the sound of tourism, the seven odd guest houses within the ward add a glimpse of Goa not felt in most hotels – a personal touch. And one such place is Marquito’s Guest House which stretches from 31st January Road to Luis de Menezes Road.
“Since half of the house was not occupied, and my ageing mother loved to interact with people, the concept of a guest house germinated. That is how this rendezvous began in 1986,” recollects proprietor Chico Ursula de Sousa, as his eyes reflect his nostalgia for the Goa of the past.
Marquito’s Guest House is a 12 double-room stay with a restaurant and bar, but it is one of the few in the Sao Tome ward run by the family.
“Tourism is about the personal touch. When I started, the occupancy was about five to ten per cent. Business is a long horse, and you have to bet on the long horse,” explains Chico, who now proudly admits enjoying ninety per cent occupancy through the year.
“Empathy is part of the Goan flavour, and a perfect host is one who sees his guest go away with a smile. Tourism is more of an ideology,” admits Mark, the second son of the family that manages the guest house.
Sao Tome and Fontainhas are two wards of Panjim that draw tourists to admire its labyrinth-like architectural layout and its offering of authentic Goan food. Filled with guest houses, homestays, hotels and restaurants, tourists sometimes outnumber the locals in the area.
Despite the swell of visitors and the consequent after-effects of noise and traffic snarls, the habitants of Sao Tome are not always on the same page regarding how to balance tourism with the lifestyle they have grown up with.
“I agree that tourism, like other businesses, has its pitfalls, but they can be worked around if the government takes us into confidence before deciding to draw a roadmap for tourism. No roadmap will be complete without the locals being involved,” reasons Chico.
“We started with just 12 rooms, and we have added the bar and restaurant now, which is open for our guests only now. With changing times, I intend opening the facility to all, with my personal touch right through,” announces Chico, who can be anointed as one bubbly pot of enthusiasm left behind by the Portuguese.
“When we started in ’86, we used to give the tourist guide who brought us business Rs 5 per room. Guides still get us business, but most of our guests are repeats. That is why the emphasis now is on how to take customer relations to another height,” explains Mark, who takes every experience with a guest as a life lesson.
“I have received offers from people to run this place, but I refuse because this place has characteristics of my ancestors that only we in the family are aware of. That is why I tell my sons I prefer to close this place than let it out. That is my madness, which I understand and enjoy,” says Chico, whilst also claiming that his guest house provides complimentary breakfast to all guests.
“The problem of tourists crowding the place to take photographs can be controlled if we all decide on what times they are allowed to take pictures. If a board is placed indicating the times, I am sure most of our problems would be solved,” avers Chico, who also believes that the prohibition of photography is not sustainable.
Mariquito’s Guest House buzzes with activity throughout the day.
If it is not guests going in or coming out, one sees tourists wandering into the lanes for a quick picture or sometimes to share a quick “hullo” and pick up titbits of the place and the de Sousa family is happy to share.
Sharing is an essence of life that is vastly misunderstood, but it can be felt, just like hope, after a cup of tea with Chico and his son Mark at Mariquito’s Guest House.
Check-in: 12.30 pm
Check out: 10 am