Potholed and unrepaired roads, garbage strewn around the countryside and on beaches are some of the memories that tourists coming to Goa take back. But, that has not stopped the government from proclaiming the State as a world-class tourism destination and the choicest bucket-list destination for travellers.
Beaches, booze and parties continue to be the biggest lures for most coming to Goa. So the party for the cheapskate tourists starts at the wholesale shops close to the beach and ends on the shores sleeping the night away.
The majority of the tourists view Goa as a place for party tourism where open drinking goes unchecked and has become more of a norm. And, back home, among the travellers, the holiday discourses revolve around who drank how much and partied hard in Goa.
Well-meaning tourists, who travel to a foreign place for some quiet and peace, when confronted by drunken tourists, take away a very different image of that destination and the same is happening in Goa. It's time to change that, but who will?
Now, coming to garbage, as per the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), one tourist can generate between one and twelve kilogrammes of waste per day when visiting a new place. However, in Goa, there has been no tangible research into litter generated by tourism.
Stacks of garbage have breached the rural-urban divide in Goa. Our rivers, beaches, forests, fields, and important tourism spots are being defiled on a daily basis, and our inaction means our tourism is not moving ahead in the right direction.
Another worrying thing is the decreasing number of foreign tourists. Government officials, who have made foreign tours to attract European tourists, haven't been able to address the issue of garbage which is despised by the latter. Yet, they expect foreign tourists to come here.
The government needs to go to the drawing board and find out from their previous data what attracted foreigners to this land of sun, sand and sea. It has to introspect their shortcomings and do course corrections.
The government would do well to establish a tourism research cell within the tourism department to analyse data that will help officials observe tourist footfall behaviour patterns and formulate strategies.
The tourism research cell will have to liaise with hotels, shacks, homestays, tour operators and other tourism stakeholders to continually know the number of visitors entering Goa. Having data on a regular basis will help them analyse the negative impacts arising out of tourism, if any.
It can be clearly seen that in the age of social media, tourism has the power to transcend cultural and economic boundaries, and Goa, too, will have to rise to the new brand of tourism and adapt accordingly.
If the government is patting its back for Goa offering world-class tourism, then it has to get a real picture of what world-class means. And, surely, some of our ministers who have travelled abroad have seen world-class tourism, and want the same here, but there are tugs and pulls.
Goa has great potential to expand its horizons when it comes to travel and tourism. However, it has to have a clear understanding of what it wants, and how it intends to project Goa. It cannot wake up one day and say all things Portuguese have to be erased and the next day say it wants Europeans to come here.
The world has become a global village and is an agglomeration of cultures and ethnicities. Goa, too, is one such example where diverse cultures meet and celebrate inclusivity.
If tourism has to flourish in Goa and become world-class, it will have to embrace multiculturalism. A culturally diverse tourism set-up will help Goa become a favoured destination once again.