‘Hippies, bad tourism ministers are poor adverts for Goa’

October 19th, 2010 - 11:21 am ICT by IANS  

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
Panaji, Oct 19 (IANS) Hugh Gantzer, one of India’s first travel writers, shoots straight from the hip. Little wonder that, at a travel fair here, he gunned for hippies, backpackers and even “rubbish tourism ministers”, saying they were sullying Goa’s image as a top tourist destination.

Gantzer, a seventh generation Anglo-Indian, raised a lot of eyebrows at the just concluded International Travel Mart (ITM) Goa for his no nonsense report card on the state of Goa’s tourism.

“A tourism minister is an ambassador of tourism for your state or the country. And when Goa has a tourism minister who is involved in all kinds of shady deals, that is the worst kind of advertisement for this destination,” the former Indian Navy commander told IANS.

In his mid-70s now, Gantzer has written nearly half a dozen travel books and lent his voice to nearly 60 travel documentaries.

He said the sensational sexual assault and death of British teenager Scarlett Keeling at Anjuna beach two years ago had already got Goa a lot of bad press in Britain, a country which contributes to half of Goa’s foreign tourist population of 500,000.

“The negative publicity Goa had been receiving after the British girl’s death was on the wane, but now this minister fellow has messed things up further as far as Goa’s image is concerned,” said Gantzer, a tourism industry expert who resides in Musoorie.

Gantzer was referring to former tourism minister Francisco alias Mickky Pacheco, a Nationalist Congress party (NCP) legislator who was forced to step down after facing a slew of criminal charges, which included culpable homicide, money laundering, bigamy, and assault.

Gantzer, who has been tracking tourism trends throughout the country, said it was time Goa bade goodbye to hippie- and backpack-oriented tourism, which first put Goa on the global tourism map nearly 40 years ago.

“I have been criticised for saying this, but Goa has to say goodbye to the hippies and
backpackers. This class of tourism inevitably is associated with drugs and that never makes for a healthy spectacle,” Gantzer said.

“Goa has moved on. Tourism in Goa should move on too. Goa needs to aim for the high spending tourists. The authorities have to decide between volume or value tourism. It’s a small state. Volume will further put a stress on the state’s resources,” he said.

Illustrating, Gantzer said young Israeli backpackers who make a beeline to India and follow the Goa-Rajasthan-Himachal circuit immediately after their compulsory military stint were not a healthy tourism advert at all.

“I have nothing against Israelis. But in the army, they are trained to hate dark skinned Arabs. And they carry their mindset when they come here. It completely puts off other tourists and can create tensions between them and the locals,” he said.

Gantzer also said the manner in which coastal land is being sold to Russians and other foreign nationals is deplorable and the trend needs to be arrested, if possible, by enacting legislation.

“Goa must protect its natural resources if it has to protect its tourism. Inaction by the government is really deplorable. The government needs to act and stop sale of such large tracts of land to foreigners if the state needs to protect its identity and tourism, both,” Gantzer said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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