Are the days of tourists drinking, cooking, washing up and even bathing and relieving themselves in the open now over? The government has notified the Goa Tourist Places (Protection and Maintenance) (Amendment) Act, 2019 that prohibits consumption of liquor in open places, cooking food in the open, littering waste including used material, empty bottles, breaking of glass bottles and other activities in public place. This amendment to the Act was a dire need, as the incidents of tourists creating a nuisance in public were increasing, and there was no specific law under which the government could take action against the tourists.
There have been in the recent past many instances of tourists driving down to the State along with all the required cooking implements and sitting on the roadside cooking their food, eating and then littering the place. This has happened all along the coast and even on the outskirts of the capital city. Littering has reached to such levels that the State spends thousands of crores of rupees annually to clean the beaches that have been dirtied by the tourists. Worse, there have also been various instances of glass bottles of alcohol being taken to the beach and then smashed and the shards left on the sands endangering unsuspecting tourists who walk barefoot on the beach.
The police are now empowered by law to act against misbehaving tourists, what is required to take it further is enforcement of the law, failing which the law on paper will produce no results. Besides this, the State has to go beyond mere enforcement of the new rules to attract quality tourists. It has to make the State more attractive to the high spenders.
Just last month MLAs from the ruling coalition had said that Goa is not attracting the kind of tourists it deserves. The focus, they had said, was on the quantum of tourists, rather than on the quality of tourists, and Goa needed well-behaved and well-mannered tourists. They had feared that Goa tourism will suffer if some action was not taken. The focus of Goa Tourism should be in improving the quality of tourists holidaying in Goa, which will end the travel of the nuisance creating kind who are currently swarming all over the State. The State may be late in waking up to this, but it certainly can redefine itself for a better quality of tourists. The quality of tourists is important for Goa to retain its spot as a desired destination, failing which the entire industry could collapse.
The amendment has, however, raised some apprehension among Goans who fear that their family and friends picnics on the beaches may be stopped as fallout of the action against the tourists. The amendment to the Act was necessitated because of the misbehaviour of the tourists, and not of the locals. The government has to assure the Goenkars that their picnics will not come under the purview of this amendment to the Act.
It is also advisable for the government to begin to consider designating picnic spots, as is done in the West, even developing some of these with facilities for the use of the locals. It can start with the minimum of facilities like washrooms and changing areas, and then develop these further to be converted into camping sites with nature trails and other recreational activities. In this manner there can also be supervision of the picnickers to ensure that there is no littering taking place, and even a nominal fee can be charged for the use of the facilities, so that the upkeep of the facilities is met financially or at least partly. A move such as this will meet that the beaches are clean and that there is control over the area, keeping the tourists away.