Some recent news reports on tourism throw up contrasting views and themes. One report, stating that Goa has one five-star hotel for every 98 square kilometres, while other states have one for thousands, suggested that Goa could stake claim to being the number one leisure luxury destination in India.
The figures that this report presented were from the website of the tourism ministry.
The other report claimed that 87 per cent (yes, 87 per cent, not an approximation or a rounded figure) of tourists that come to Goa were of low quality. The report neither defined low-quality tourists nor substantiated the 87 per cent figure with data or studies.
This is at once contrasting as well as confusing, leading to the question of whether Goa is a destination for the upper crust or whether it is one that the lowbrows make a beeline to.
Given the dependence on charter tourism, the latter would be more like it. But then, Goa does have several luxury resorts and does bring in a substantial number of well-heeled travellers.
However, what is startlingly clear from these reports is that Goa Tourism is still unclear on the path it has taken and how it should proceed from here.
Even though Goa has been promoting tourism for decades and this industry is the state’s economic mainstay in revenue collection as well as employment, the sector lacks focus.
Although presented with the opportunity to reinvent itself during the pandemic period that saw tourism at a standstill, Goa did not bring about changes as some of the other states, its competitors, did.
When transportation resumed after the lockdowns, Goa merely opened the hotel doors again and let in tourists, and that is perhaps when the so-called “low quality” tourists increased in number.
The effort should be to replace the “low quality” tourists with those of a higher quality. This is something that tourism ministers and industry insiders have been talking about over the years past, but with little change to make it happen.
As a result, the tourist composition has remained the same, though Goa does have luxury resorts that could weigh in to make it a destination of the creamy layer.
But then, and this is important, the rich tourist will also want certain other amenities besides luxury resorts and hotels.
If Goa is selling itself as a beach destination, it has to keep its shores pristine. This is the least that the tourists will expect when they curl their toes on the sands of Goa. Add to this motorable roads that are not full of craters.
Aside from this, Goa needs to work on its image. Despite efforts of the government, Goa does not always receive favourable media coverage where tourism is concerned.
Currently, the rape of a tourist in a hotel has been giving Goa bad reviews. Some months ago, it was an altercation between two groups outside a hotel in Goa, which led to physical fights. This was the cause of some negative publicity, leading to netizens posting on social media sites about cancelling their trips to Goa.
Soon after that, there was the issue of an influencer taking potshots at Goa, leading to her apologising when the government stepped in to take action against those defaming Goa.
The state does turn into an easy punching bag for all those who want to badmouth it, damaging its reputation, which in a fickle tourism market can have disastrous results.
With a month to go before the new tourism season begins – though Goa’s offseason monsoon has also brought in a large number of tourists – the state needs to work on how it will work off the negative publicity and turn this to its advantage.
It may have succeeded in getting one influencer to apologise and take down the objectionable posts, but what about crimes against tourists or crimes by tourists? How does the state tackle this? Drunk and misbehaving tourists are as much a cause of bad publicity as attacks on tourists.
These may be issues that are not peculiar to Goa, as many tourist spots do face similar issues.
One would need to check how these have been tackled in the other areas to learn a lesson or two from there that can then be adapted here. It may not be the best solution, but it may help.
For how long are we only going to whine about the quality of tourists and do nothing about it? Isn’t it time that something was done to remedy the situation?