Whenever one thinks of visiting Goa, the first thing which comes to mind is its beaches. However, the trends are gradually changing as the Goans are engaging the tourists more now to share their culture with the visitors and guests. VIKANT SAHAY finds out how young startups from Goa are taking this forward and helping the tourists and guests to understand Goa better and deeper
Gone are the days when Goa was only known for its beaches. Hinterland and rural tourism is gaining grounds not only by the efforts made by the Goa Tourism but also at the sideline by various private tour operators which includes emerging and rising start-ups in the state.
Nativefolks recently concluded a Women’s Day special trip to Netravali Verlem Village titled – Goddess in You. This trip was intended to allow women participants to de-stress themselves in the lap of nature and more importantly to re-connect with their inner goddess.
Right from the yoga sessions by Beatriz Milla to a session on transformative creative dance practice by Pushapanjali, all the activities revolved around this theme. A treasure hunt was organised in the village to enhance awareness about the local culture and to promote the true spirit of travel. Treks to ‘sunset point’ and the Sawari waterfall were conducted. The girls were also fortunate to be a part of the village Shigmo festival and witness the rich customs and traditions seen by very few outsiders.
The three day- two night trip was packed with lots of soul rejuvenating activities and received a lot of praise from the group. Beatriz who was also a part of the group said “The timing was perfect with the Holi and Shigmotsav celebrations. It allowed me time-out to be in nature in the company of wonderful ladies. A much needed break to recharge oneself.” Another group member, Nandini, a software professional based in Bangalore who came with her group of girl friends, commended the program saying “Our overall experience was splendid. I cannot pick a favourite, as each part of the programme was superb. I am taking back love and harmony from here. Amazing people and an amazing organisation! I would love to be a part of such future trips.”
Nativefolks is an organisation dedicated to connecting culturally sensitive travellers to culturally rich rural communities. It was established in the year 2014 by Ashwini Krishna. It has operations in Goa, Odisha, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and will soon be expanding to Sikkim.
The purpose of rural tourism is the exchange of cultures, which calls for the hosts to offer their homes, their beliefs and their culture on a platter. It is a niche segment targeting travellers interested in the culture, history and the landscape of a rural community. It not only allows the guests a glimpse of the host’s lives and cultural heritage but helps to bring them closer to their own intrinsic roots. Most of these travellers come to breathe the stress-free air of these villages and end up taking a bit of this spirit back to where they came from.
And it is a win-win situation for both. Netravali Verlem Project was inaugurated three years back. Gajanan Gaonkar, a host from Verlem village says, “Initially there were hordes of tourists visiting the place for its scenic beauty. But there was no control nor were we able to tap the financial benefits. Through this eco-tourism enterprise we are benefitted financially and also we get to learn a lot of from guests”. Most of the city guests enjoy the food and simple lifestyle and are keen to know how the villagers lead their life without doctors, supermarkets, mobile networks etc.
The rural tourism initiative in Goa though, did not get a flying start, since many of the visitors were apprehensive about the quality of their stay and their safety. However, over the years consistent efforts by socially conscious organisations like Nativefolks helped in increasing awareness. This was boosted by great experiences and positive word of mouth publicity by older customers. According to Ashwini Krishna, founder of Nativefolks, “This is only the beginning and we have a long way to go.”