There’s a sea change in Goa’s approach to tourism – from the beaches to the hinterland.
Reason 1: paedophilia and sex attacks, mostly along the coastline, battered its tourist-friendly image.
Reason 2: belated realization that domestic tourists seeking more than shed-dress beaches spend much more in Goa than foreigners.
“Goa will always be synonymous with the sea and beaches such as Anjuna, Calangute, Vagator and Baga. But there’s more to Goa than the beaches, and the hinterland is just as alluring,” Goa Tourism Director Swapnil Naik told Hindustan Times.
Naik and his team were in Guwahati to sell Goa to regions across India that “haven’t been giving us much business”. It was in keeping with Goa’s push for generating tourism beyond peak seasons.
Rural landscape and natural getaways of Goa’s hinterland districts such as Ponda and Sanguem thus figure in a ‘complete package’.
“The tourism scenario in Goa dipped post 2007 though the number of foreign tourists rose to over 3.5 lakh in 2009 from 78,000 in 1991. We realized then that domestic tourists contributed more to Goa’s earning of 33 per cent from the tourism industry,” Naik said.
Consequently, locals have “now learnt to be more hospitable to” domestic tourists instead of being partial to foreigners, who “book in advance” and are “reluctant spenders”.
Apart from being thrifty, the number of tourists from stronger economies such as UK has dipped. Low-spenders from Russia and CIS countries have taken their place.
Much of Goa’s tourism fortunes in recent months had to do with sex scandals “blown out of proportions”, Naik insisted. “There were only three cases, and in each of them, we took the kind of prompt action unheard of elsewhere in India. Even the influential haven’t been spared.”
In November 2008, Goa Education Minister Atanasio Monserrate’s son Rohit was charged with raping a minor German girl. That year, a British woman was sexually assaulted by a motorcyclist near Panjim. Around the same time, a beach shack owner named Agnelo Noronha molested a 27-year-old Russian woman.