Three types of tourists; three solutions
I’ve excerpted a section that describes tourism. After that, I discuss how Western tourist’s expectations could actually improve the situation. I finish off with 3 simple suggestions for change.
First, the excerpt:
Three types of visitors
“Goa has been a tourist destination for many years, but only recently has it begun to suffer from mass tourism, the sure destroyer. Over the years there have essentially been three types of visitors to Goa. First, there were the Goans returning home on leave from their far-flung diaspora – reaching floodtide when the Bombay shops and offices let out for the holidays. This type of tourist brought new ideas and goods into Goan society, but was not disruptive.
“A few years after Liberation, Goa was discovered by disaffected, adventurous Western youth, loosely termed ‘hippies’. Their nudism, drugs, and rock music shocked Goan sensibilities. Nevertheless, while the appearance of some seaside villages changed, the local people remained in control of the tourist trade, and socio-economic structures were not altered drastically.
“It is the third type of tourism which has brought about severe economic, social, and cultural dislocation. This is the more recent mass tourism by well-to-do individuals or groups who want little or nothing to do with Goan life – visitors cocooned in luxury hotels built on former village land, staffed by former fishermen, toddy-tappers, and farmers, and supplied by the ‘more reliable’ sources outside Goa …It seems almost inevitable that the burgeoning tourist ‘infrastructure’ will overwhelm and destroy the very place the tourists are coming to see.” [Pages 32-33]f Umbrellas, Goddesses and Dreams – essays on Goan culture and society. Robert S. Newman. 2001. Other India Press, Mapusa (Goa, India).
How tourists could actually help
As mentioned in an earlier post, keep in mind that 20 to 30 percent of visitors to Goa are “Westerners” (foreigners) and the rest come to Goa from elsewhere in India. In my opinion, that’s good news and bad news.
The good news is, Western package tourists – especially those from North America, Britain and Europe – are a fickle lot, and seem to climb over each other in their search for a packaged, authentic vacation experience. While they expect English menus, beans on toast and A/C comfort; they also want sustainable eco-tours, locally-sourced menus, holistic health spas, and a garbage-free environment.
In their home countries they are fairly conscientious about not only throwing their garbage in a bin, but sorting out the paper and recyclables and disposing of them accordingly. At home, many of them forgo bottled water to drink from the tap (with a filter, if necessary). And I’m guessing they don’t waste water by washing their linens every morning. It’s a good habit, but one they must break to holiday in Goa.
Imagine their disorientation when they arrive and – like many package tour destinations- discover that trash bins are practically non-existant (just throw it on the ground, a shopkeeper may tell them), recycling is unheard of, both in their hotels and outside (especially for all those water bottles), drinking water must be bought (even though many tourist restaurants have water filters and will refill an empty one), and that sheets are dragged off their beds whether they want it or not.
For better or worse, foreigners seek local food, tour and ayurvedic medicine providers. “Better” because the people who offer these services are generally new or established Goans and their families – not corporate managers who pass the buck to the multi-national foreign owners. Unlike other sun destinations I’ve visited (the 35 kilometres of Las Vegas-like hotels in Mexico’s Cancun come to mind), the hotels and restaurants on Goa’s beaches are innumberable but mostly small-scale and family-run.
“Worse” because for the most part, the quality of that local room, tour, food and health product is unreliable and probably unregulated. And whose fault is that – the tourist’s? Local businesses probably don’t filter their drinking water (forcing each and every guest to buy it bottled), don’t provide garbage and recycling (for all the water bottles!), and don’t ask guests if they’d be willing to have their sheets washed every other day.
As I wrote earlier, hotelier Serafino Cota (The Advocate and the Allergy) has ably demonstrated his 30-room hotel in southern Goa, not only is it possible to operate a no-waste home for tourists, but profitable too – he actually receives money from a Margao (Goa) waste-collector for all the plastic, glass, metal and paper they pick up from his property! That’s a Goan collection business supported by the Goan government, serving a Goan hotel.
The bad news? Some Indian tourists haven’t noticed that there’s anything wrong. In Goa as in other places, Indian visitors throw their garbage on the ground without even looking for a garbage bin – someone will deal with it, sometime. They buy bottled water like the foreigners. They take whatever sheet-changing and kowtowing hotel staff will offer them, because they don’t get that at home (unless they have servants who deal with it, somehow). And as I said, Indians comprise the majority of Goan visitors.
3 easy, obvious solutions
I read in a local newspaper recently that Candolim and Calangute beach associations (panchayats) are pleased with how effectively their hired cleaners comb the beach every evening to keep the sand tidy of garbage for the next day’s visitors. But as one tourist from England so succinctly put it, “Why don’t they just put a dustbin at every shack so we have somewhere to throw it?”
In the name of forward-thinking journalsim (or blogging, in this case), I offer three ways to get started, if the Goan tourism stakeholders are willing:
1. Post signs
Just as every establishment has No Smoking signs posted on their walls, have hotels and resturants post a sign advising visitors that Safe Filtered Water is available. Refill plastic water bottles for 5 rupees, or for free with a minimum purchase. Establish Water Filter stations. This is not radical stuff – reputable businesses already have the equipment, they just need to spread the word. Build water-filtering business and reduce water bottle buying.
3. Install bins
If, as I wrote in an earlier entry, “labour is cheaper than plastic“, put the beach cleaners to better use. Buy barrel-sized garbage bins (or better yet, reappropriate old barrels!), stake them securely along the beach and around the village, and have the cleaners empty them frequently. Create a sorting station and have the cleaners separate the waste from the recyclables.
3. Sort waste
There’s money to be made from waste glass, plastic, paper and metal. Collect enough of it, and a number of Margao scrap dealers will buy it from you. Says Cota, you don’t need a lot of space to do it, either. Hotels can repurpose a few parking spaces or backlot; and beach shacks can create a seasonal central collection site and have your staff sort waste when business is slow. Serafino Cota says anyone who’s interested can contact him through his Dona Sa Maria website , or by phone: (0832) 2745290 or 2745673.