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Asia

Is Goa still a safe place?

With sand, beach and sun, Goa is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world. But India’s beach tourism capital that attracts millions of people every year is getting overcrowded.

Goa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India

Goa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India

Crimes against foreign tourists in the last couple of years have hit Goa’s reputation as a holiday destination hard. Goa, which attracts half a million foreign tourists annually, has seen a string of crimes including rapes, murders and mysterious deaths involving foreign nationals.

Over 40 per cent of the visitors are British followed by the Russians and the Isrealis. Reeling under the spate of crimes, the Goa government was forced to look at novel security mechanisms, one of which involves setting up a tourist police force, manned by former servicemen.

Media hype

However Tony Frank, a hotelier blames the media for playing up the crimes. "Goa’s image is not being tarnished exactly. It is just that the media at times creates all this hype," he complains, "And all these problems are created by the media so that politicians are targeted in all these issues to run them down. That is the end point of all the criticism and the problems that are taking place."

Goa is famous for its white sandy beaches

Goa is famous for its white, sandy beaches

Dominque Fernandes who runs a holiday shack on Utorda beach in south Goa says the place is safe but discretion is important. He doesn’t think Goa’s image has taken a beating. For him Goa is a safe place. "It depends on how you behave and how you act with other people. They should have their self-respect.. if you have your self-respect, no such things like rape or killing is going to happen. And don’t ever go for drugs," he says.

Overcrowded

But it is just not this side of Goa that has recently been on display to the international community. Goa’s tourism belt is getting overcrowded. Some of its most scenic spots are being deprived of water resources, choked by sewage and inundated by humans.

Pranab Mukhopadhyay who teaches at Goa University explains: "One needs to remember that in the last few years the tourist inflow exceeds the size of the domestic population. And the pressure this puts on the resources of the state is fairly large and in the long run can impact quite cruelly on the state’s future earning capability. I think a better managed tourism industry would not only be beneficial for the stakeholders of the industry but to those who come to the state to enjoy its pristine natural beauty."

Soaring real estate prices

Tourism industry is booming in Goa

Tourism industry is booming in Goa

In the last few years there has been rapid commercialization of the picturesque beaches that has prompted businessmen and realtors from other major cities to invest in Goa.

This, in turn, has sharply pushed up land prices. Villages now have to contend with mega housing projects and the consequences are serious and solutions a long way off. Nascimento de Souza, a retired professional blames the state authorities for the disorganized planning.

The party goes on

"The trouble is that they have no plan. I mean they talk of having a plan but it is a plan that is being produced by certain vested interests but not for the broader interests of Goans or the future of Goa," he says.

But for some the problems seem far away too. The party goes on. Just a stone’s throw from the sands of Baga beach in the northern part of Goa, Mario runs the popular resort of Cavala. Only time will tell whether commercial expansion and crime will harm Goa's pristine image and beauty and thus ruin it as a tourist destination.

Author: Murali Krishnan, Goa
Editor: Grahame Lucas

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