The arrest of three Bulgarians for an ATM skimmng racket is yet more evidence of tourists resorting to crime in Goa. Just a day after Herald had chronicled the crimes of the past two months that involved tourists and included rave parties, gambling, fake currency, we now have the ATM skimming case to add to this already long list. And this too happened in the Bardez beach belt, as did the others. Not to be left out, on the same day as the Bulgarians were held, a Bollywood director was also arrested and later released on bail for assaulting his wife. This last incident happened in Canacona where the couple was holidaying.
For the State, that is attempting to get its tourism industry back on its feet following the truncated previous season due to the COVID pandemic, incidents such as these do tarnish the Goan tourism image to a large extent. While the industry takes this in its stride, admitting that ‘crimes, cheating, touting, prostitution, drugs’ all come along with the development of tourism, they also point out that it is the duty of the government to ‘regulate and control crime as these issues bring a bad name to Goa’. The recent raids and arrests may indicate that the police have been extra vigilant on the crimes, but these are not petty crimes committed without any planning. The nature of the crimes shows that they were pre-meditated. Hence, we may need to look a little deeper and probe whether these tourists came to Goa for the sole purpose of engaging in illegal activities. If that is so, has the Goan image already been severely dented?
The State needs to learn how to deal with crime in tourism. In the past Goa’s image did get tarnished due to crimes against tourists, but here it is facing a different aspect, which is crime by tourists. How can it be stopped? The Centre for Responsible Tourism has a broad suggestion that needs to be further studied. Stating that the government has learnt nothing out of this pandemic, the Centre said this was an opportunity to rethink tourism in Goa where the ‘focus could have been local coastal communities instead of wild promotion as Goa being a destination of free for all’.
In the current circumstances, Goa definitely needs to rethink its tourism policies. It may be easy to hide behind the argument that tourism attracts crime, the question is what is to be done about this. A white paper presented earlier by TTAG to the government had touched upon the subject and had suggested that information counters empowered to deal with crime and issues of safety are set up. It also sought an agency to control the damage caused by crime. SOP documents to be created for criminal nuisances for a hotel owner or a restaurant owner to deal with such situations properly. But these are damage control measures, what is needed is a proactive proposal that can arrest crime, before it is committed.
In the above cases, for a change the tourists have not been the victims, but the perpetrators of the crimes. Tourists around the world are usually warned of being victims of crime in their holiday destinations. What’s to be done here, warn residents of the possibility that there may be tourists who are the criminals? The Goa government has to take strict measures to curb this new tendency among tourists to launch criminal activities. It raises the question of whether Goa is attracting the right kind of tourists in the State. Either way it is negative publicity for Goa and for tourism in the State, that at the current juncture when the State is a week away from the fresh tourism season, is definitely not required.