Saturday, August 31, 2013

India: Goa is Still a Magnet for Budget Tourists, Visitors Urged to Look Elsewhere

According to The Guardian, Goa, located in West India in a region known as the Konkan, and located on the Arabian Sea, is attempting to reverse itself from being a haven for Indian tourists as well as low-budget foreign tourists who spend little money.

Renowned for its beaches, places of worship and world heritage architecture, Goa is visited by large numbers of international and domestic tourists each year. 

Unfortunately, and most recently, officials in Goa, are attempting to shed the area's reputation as  a hedonistic hippie haven whose promises of sun, sand, cheap beer and drugs transformed it into a magnet for backpackers and budget tourists.

Alternatively, and albeit suddenly, Goa officials seemingly want a much more upscale clientele, a clean-up if you will, and a new direction in terms of the type of folks that Goa officials ostensibly want.

As a result, drinking hours have been slashed, dance bars banned and drinking on the beach forbidden. The ministry of tourism has allocated £7.5 million (US$11.6 million) for tourism-related projects, including a golf course, helicopter tours and a cruise ship terminal. There is even talk of oceanariums and theme parks.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, international tourist arrivals are already down 23% since 2010. Visa fees have soared in 2013 (plus processing fees) and with the collapse of the rupee, tourists are eyeing other Asian beach destinations such as Thailand and Vietnam.

According to THE GUARDIAN, figures released recently by the tourism ministry demonstrate that the state is falling behind many of India's less well-known destinations. Tourism grew by only 0.08% in the past five years. The number of British tourists has fallen from 154,122 in 2010 to 119,891 last year, an indication that Goa is no longer a preferred destination.

Critics of Goa feel very strongly that the beach resort is going to have a hard time winning upscale tourists back after years of sending mixed signals that it wanted Indian and low-budget foreigners. Additionally, the beaches are filthy, strewn with broken glass and soaked in oil discharged by tankers off the coast.

Low alcohol prices have drawn in large gangs of men who drink heavily and whose presence makes it feel less safe for local women and female tourists. 

The British Foreign Office travel warning to Britons thinking of visiting Goa warns: "Throughout Goa there have been reports of drinks being spiked and travelers, including British nationals, subsequently being robbed, sexually assaulted or even killed."

In 2012, 29 British nationals died or were killed in Goa. Some of these deaths were attributed to drug/alcohol abuse, but there has been a series of high-profile incidents in Goa of alleged rape against foreign nationals, including Britons. Visitors are urged to avoid beaches after dark while stray dogs abound as well as the threat of robbery, sexual assault and harassment.

To make matters worse, those responsible for the death of British teenager Scarlett Keeling, 15, who was raped, drugged and left for dead in 2008 in Goa still have yet to to be adjudicated in court in terms of the two men responsible for her death. 

Of course, the underlying question is: What irresponsible person left Keeling in the hands of the assailants?

Given the tons of garbage adorning beaches in Goa and respectable tourists being robbed, conned, duped, attacked and victimized, and the fact that Goa is still known for its reputation as a haven for hippies and budget tourists, Goan beaches are hardly a place to find solitude, tranquility and safety.

My personal suggestion is that there are countless beaches in the region far safer and healthier for tourists than Goa. If you need suggestions, please email me at: