Goa has long attracted Western holidaymakers for its relaxed vibe, but rapid construction, swelling crowds and fears over safety are threatening the Indian state’s global reputation as a tranquil haven.
The former Portuguese colony is transforming from a quiet paradise popular with international hippies to a heavily-developed entertainment destination for higher-income foreign and domestic visitors who want five-star luxury, tourism officials say.
“The laid back tourist might go to other destinations because Goa is changing but now there are lots of other segments coming such as MICE tourism (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions),” Savio Messias, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, told AFP.
“Goa is also getting to be a very big wedding destination and a lot people are now coming for entertainment,” he added.
Billboards advertising luxury developments dot Goa’s lush landscape, with Messias saying many new hotels, including big chains, are opening up every year.
Government statistics show Indian visitors soared by 34 per cent to 4.7 million last year from 2014 while foreigners increased by just 5 per cent as the number of charter flights plummeted.
The sluggish global economy and a slump in the value of the Russian ruble are regularly cited a
s factors but local businesses fear Westerners are being turned off by Goa’s rapidly altering landscape.
“Day by day the number of foreigners coming is getting less because they hear it is too crowded here now. They want peace and quiet.
“Over the past two to three years business has been very low,” Mohammed Sultan, a jewellery shop owner at Baga beach, told AFP.
An imminent ban on alcohol consumption in some public areas, plans to shift the popular Sunburn music festival out of peak season and ministers’ comments that beach parties are illegal and bikinis should be banned are also contributing to fears the Goan party could be over.
“I think it affects Westerners’ thinking. They want to be free to enjoy their holiday,” said Sultan.