Main reason for the low tourist numbers is rapes, murders, random killings and other crimes against tourists, say foreigners
MARGAO: After the alleged murder of Scarlett Keeling a few years ago, the recent rape and murder of Daniella McLaughlin, and many in between, the reputation of Goa as a safe destination has taken a hit. Both tourists and stakeholders in Goa say that the government has done precious little to address this issue. “The main reason for the low tourist numbers in Goa is the rapes, murders, random killings and other crimes taking place against tourists”, says Sanna Cutter and Minna Pirhonen, relatives of tourists who were murdered in Goa. In a letter to TTAG, the two women stated that the main issues are not related to high prices but are connected directly with these safety, law and order issues.
The majority of tourists in Goa are within the age group of 18-35. This is the group that is at most risk since they are the ones who spend more time in remote parts of Goa such as Canacona and Ashvem, spend more time traveling through the State and also spend most of their time at night outside the hotel. Among this age group, security is one of the top three factors which determine the choice of destination. Since they use social media extensively, they receive their information from online reviews rather than from official government sources. This means that any crime in Goa or possible risks they face in Goa reaches this group very quickly and the government has no means to counter this negative publicity.
The president of TTAG Savio Messias, however, has a different opinion on tourist safety and security, and its impact on tourism. “This type of things (crimes against tourists) happen in other countries. But the Goa government has not made any effort in addressing the concerns of security and safety,” he said adding that the industry stakeholders such as shopkeepers and shack owners control hawkers and beggars. “The beaches are patrolled by the IRBP (beach police) but they don’t have any powers to arrest anyone. They have to go to the local police and lodge a complaint.”
Obviously, the law and order in Goa is a very mild deterrent for those who intend to commit a crime against tourists. The justice system in Goa doesn’t help either. “The family of a victim will have to spend years in court. The investigation officers don’t take these cases seriously because they are transferred often,” said Messias.
Fr Maverick of Centre for Responsible Tourism (CRT) says that the safety and security in Goa is a matter of grave concern. “Unless someone feels secure, they won’t visit a country. Advisories are a determent to the State. Harassment from stakeholders, including when they are on the road, is a type of security issue. We don’t see any serious address of the issue if the death of tourists from government’s side. The casual approach of the government has hurt tourism,” he says.