18 Sep 2020  |   04:28am IST

Are unemployed touts taking over tourism, in Goa?

Tourists are flooding in and the touts are active offering everything under the sun. With the ranks of the unemployed having swelled many could be tempted to take to petty crime. Café spoke to players in the tourism industry many of whom said that the menace of tourism touts and off the books illegal tourism business has been rampant, with authorities turning a blind eye
Are unemployed touts taking over tourism, in Goa?

Ajit John

Reports of tourists who drove down from Bengaluru being assaulted and robbed by those who pretended to be a tourist guide promising accommodation makes for rather disquieting news.  The tourists are coming in droves and restaurants and clubs on the coastline have been packed. The virus has decimated industry leaving several thousand’s without a job. Many of them have their families depending on them. Many may be tempted to turn to petty crime to feed their families. In such a scenario with the season set to commence possibly in October, the tourism industry will have to organize itself to ensure tourists don’t experience any hardship during the course of their stay. 

Nilesh Shah, President TTAG felt awareness of the situation would have to be the key. He said “There will be crime because people will need money and hence it will be important for us to create awareness at the border itself.  The presence of touts he said was not a new phenomenon and the authorities would have to take a firm stand. If they indulged in illegal activities, punishment would have to be given. Tourists have options to visit other parts of India and they are offering discounted rates. The market is very competitive and we have to compete and these incidents just cannot happen”. 

But Shah should acquaint himself with a harsh reality. this is not a new phenomenon and hoteliers in the coastal belt have reported this in the past. 

Serafino Cotta who has a hotel in Calangute said this was a problem they had been trying to deal with for a very long time. He said “We made a representation to the Goa Tourism and informed about this huge illegality but they did not act. There is a huge problem of state revenue leakage because touts are making a lot of money. It is a huge lobby; all the second homes of people living outside are given to tourists. The money earned is sent out of the state without being taxed. The number of illegal guest houses and hotels in the state is huge. Guests want the easy way out and then get trapped. I believe this incident will be the precursor to more. I don’t wish it to happen but it will happen”. 

Anton D ‘ Souza who owns a guest house in Calangute said this was happening for so many years and it had been brought to the attention of the authorities but nothing had been done.  He said almost forty per-cent of the trade was illegal and the problem was systemic. The authorities he said claimed responsibility only for those registered with them. If drugs were seized then the response was that they were not registered with the authorities. They operated in flats without permission and it was important that something ought to be done about this problem. 

Padma Nair who is a hotelier and a senior member of the Small Hotel Association, spoke about how small hotels and by extention everyone associated with it, had their backs broken by the COVID doom. Though this wasn’t explicitly, said it is clear that this has led to a lot to desperation among many who lived off tourism and at the lower rung of the ladder, the economic crisis has led to people taking to crime. 

She said “There was a moratorium till August 31 and now the banks are asking for payment of the loans. Who is coming here, the government says start but how does one start.  This incident that was reported was unfortunate but the small hotels are in very bad shape. The loans are now breaking them, it’s not human”. 

A travel agent in Calangute, Carey Mascarenhas had a very interesting take on it all. He said “I strongly feel the government should not have opened the border in the first place. Today the tourists coming to Goa, stay in their cars, cook on the pavements and basically of no value to tourism. This assault case in Porvorim was very disturbing but these tourists coming here are looking for everything cheap which then means they could come in contact with these touts. I don’t think international tourists will come here because Goa is now number two as far as cases are concerned and the situation is pretty grim”. 

The situation on the ground is not something that will make anyone feel confident, one can only hope sanity prevails and the authorities move in and sort this problem out.



Iddhar Udhar