Photo credits: Kedar Marathe via goa.me
Ah, Goa. Land of sun, sea, and sand; the top spot on the Indian college kid’s bucket list. And indeed, tourism is one of the biggest revenue generators in the state.
But everything has a cost, and haphazard tourism infrastructure development has indeed made an ugly blot on the state’s landscape and livability.
According to stats revealed by the Department of Tourism, Goa, the number of tourists visiting the state has steadily increased from 3.1 million in 2013 to a whopping 6.33 million in 2016. Compare these numbers with the state’s population of just 1.8 million. At any time, the tourists in the state outnumber the residents.
This poses severe challenges to the administration – the need for adequate infrastructure for tourists, waste management, reducing the impact on the fragile eco-systems, and more.
Eco-Tourism- What and Why
What does the term “eco-tourism” mean? Very often, people assume that eco-tourism is just another term for going green. Building lodges in the middle of the forest, geothermal powered hotels, efforts by tourist operators to reduce their carbon footprint and more.
While all this is part of eco-tourism, it doesn’t present the complete picture. Eco-tourism has to be sustainable. When it comes to sustainable tourism, there are three pillars to consider – economic, environmental and socio-cultural.
The current approach of unregulated mass tourism, with no thought to the environment or the future, causes irreversible damage. Garbage piles dotting scenic beaches, loss of marine life (see reports on the impending death of the Great Barrier Reef), large luxury hotels and resorts that chew through power and other natural resources – stand as testimonies to the negative impacts of unsustainable tourism practices.
The state should take a leaf out of Portugal’s book: the country recently won the title of Europe’s leading tourism destination for 2018 at the World Travel Awards. Faced with mounting debt and financial crisis, Portugal has managed to revitalize its economy by focusing on travel and eco-tourism. The country today has emerged as one of the most sustainable tourist destinations in the world.
Goa, just like Portugal, is rich in both natural bounty and a downplayed but vibrant cultural history. The Department of Tourism of Goa should focus on converting existing tourist accommodations into eco-friendly and sustainable structures.
Getting B&Bs, hotels, lodges, beach shacks, and restaurants to install sewage treatment plans, waste management systems, and to switch over to renewable energy will not only benefit the state’s environmental landscape but also increase the revenue for tourism operators in the long run.
That said, a shift to a sustainable tourism model will require the involvement of several parties – the central and state governments, tech entrepreneurs, hotel and restaurant owners, green activists and above all, the local communities.
The Final Word
It’s time that Goa moved towards a sustainable and culturally relevant tourism experience by getting all stakeholders on board. The current exploitative model of ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’ will not stand the test of time.
Either it goes, or Goa does.