Hippies, Backpackers, Bollywood


NT KURIOCITY speaks to Class 12 student Gayatridevi Tarcar, who has conducted extensive research on Goa’s tourism industry in the research paper titled ‘Rise of Tourism in Goa and the Factors Which Contributed
to it’


Q. Why did Goa emerge as a beacon for international travellers in the 1960s? What were the factors which contributed to it? 

It was a quirky, global socio-political development which first triggered a trend, that resulted in a bee-line of foreign tourists first coming to Goa in the late 1960s. Still fresh in its avatar as a newly-minted state in the Indian Union, Goa, with its relaxed vibe — almost inspired by the Iberian influence which the coastal region appeared to have imbibed following its tryst of 451 years as a Portuguese colony — was an ideal destination for hippies. Hippies, essentially Westerners with an alternative set of sensibilities, had already rejected the philosophies of materialism in their respective ‘modern’ societies and were outraged by the escalation of wars in faraway lands like Vietnam. Hippies had emerged as a popular group of global nomads, either in search of dystopian havens or a place plugged off from the mainstream cultures of the world. Among the many places they stumbled upon, one was Goa of the 1960s. By the 1970s, Goa emerged as a recurring port-of-call for hippies from San Francisco to Salzburg.

Q. But then the hippies withered away as a community. What happened next? 

Goa’s arrival on the global tourism map may have been inadvertent, thanks to the meandering hippies, but since then its reputation as a tourism destination, grew slowly but steadily through the 1980s with backpackers slowly following the trail laid down by the
pioneering hippies. 

Stories about Goa went back home to Europe, along with post cards and photos about this tiny Portuguese-influenced destination in Goa, which is a part of India, but is quite unlike the country it is located in. And where drugs were easily available.

Q. This phase was followed by the dawn of charter tourism?

Yes. The gradual increase in interest in Goa globally, especially in Europe, resulted in the first international charter tourist flight landing at Goa’s Dabolim International Airport from Europe.

According to a research paper ‹Tourism development in Goa after liberation an Economic analysis› published in 2003, foreign tourist arrivals improved since the first charter flights landed in Goa in 1985. From a modest beginning in the 1980s, nearly 200 charter flights land in Goa every year now with tourists from England, Russia, Germany, and other European countries.

Q. How has Goa fared as far as domestic tourists are concerned?

Apart from the European tourist boom, Goa has also gained a much bigger reputation as a ‘bucket-list’ tourism destination for domestic tourists, especially youngsters. One of the reasons for the boom in the young Indian tourists was the cult film ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Khanna, which dragged Goa out of a global tourism slump post the 9/11 terror attacks in New York. Then chairman of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Ralph de Souza said so on record at the India Travel Mart, which was held in Goa in 2010.

The boom appears to have held until now, especially with the introduction and the subsequent rise in the phenomenon of ‘casino tourism’.

But recent years, have seen a dip in the enthusiasm among tourists vis a vis choosing Goa as a destination for their holidays, thanks to expensive logistical costs, lack of innovation in creating tourism infrastructure, over-crowded tourist haunts, increase in crime against tourists, etc.

 It is now up to the tourism authorities to come up with a solution to arrest this dangerous slide.

Q. Indeed, Goa now appears to be in a slump of some sort. What is the road ahead of the industry? 

What began as a naive exploration of a ‘Westernised’ tropical paradise by the hippies in the 1960s has evolved Goa into a haven for a full-fledged tourism industry. While the tourism numbers in recent years have increased significantly, all the more due to the presence of the casinos industry, the State has been unable to juxtapose the surge in tourist arrivals with improvement of its public infrastructure. This imbalance has resulted in several sections of the Goan society, raising the inevitable question of the cost which the tourism industry, is exacting on the quality of life of the resident population as well as tourists and the environment. The recent call from tourism industry stakeholders, for a need to conduct a tourism carrying capacity survey in the state, signals a deep sense of anxiety among the stakeholders. As has been witnessed in many parts of the world, tourism is only successful as long as the resident population draws its levels of contentedness from the benefits which the industry accrues. And Goa cannot be an exception to the norm.