Yesterday, while browsing through the travelogues on Guardian, I stumbled upon Gethin Chamberlain’s article, ‘Why Goa is looking to go upmarket – and banish Brits and backpackers’.
Chamberlain unwittingly paints Goa to be a place weary of hedonistic hippies, and parsimonious travellers, with the government now aiming to clampdown specifically on British tourists and backpackers.
While the Goa Government has been keen to raise the bar on the quality of tourism, Chamberlain, through his article is careless to imply the move is aimed specifically at British nationals.
My first thoughts were; indeed there has been an unprecedented influx of the frugal, drug mongering, carousing visitors along the Anjuna, Moira and other popular belts – however a majority aren’t from the UK.
Infact, according to data tabled in the house by the tourism ministry, top arrivals to Goa’s sunny beaches in 2010 and 2011 were from European countries, namely Germany, Finland, France, Switzerland, Russia and Sweden. Others from Britain, Israel and the Middle East.
The steady decline in visitors from the UK is evident after seeing a 30 per cent fall in visitors to Goa, highlighted in an article by local Zee news network. On the other hand, Russian arrivals have seen a sharp increase by more than 200 per cent.
As you read further into the article he says, ‘Tired of being India’s answer to Blackpool, it wants to go upmarket.’
Now, anyone having visited both places will say the comparison of Goa to Blackpool is unfathomable; to say the least it’s like comparing apples and mangoes.
Matthew Barham, having visited both places says, ‘Goa and Blackpool can’t really be compared.’
‘Goa is a historic and in large areas unspoiled. Its natural beauty displays its rich historical Portuguese roots in its architecture, local culture and predominantly Catholic heritage,’he added.
‘My experience of Blackpool is that of a tatty seaside resort constructed 150 years ago during the boom period of the industrial revolution, and is localized around a single concrete promenade that features low-brow seaside attractions that haven’t been updated since the 1970s.’
Its true in recent years, Goa’s natural beauty in some areas has faded due to over populated areas, beaches strewn with rubbish and public transport infrastructure that make it impossible to explore, unless you are willing to spend the spare dosh on taxis.
Nevertheless, UNESCO heritage sites, baroque style architecture of churches, and temples has not stopped the young, international and worldly travelers seeking inspiration and enlightenment in the small island.
While Mr. Lobo is discerning on the type of tourists he aims to attract, he is not far from the truth when he speaks about its declining image, and Goa’s plans to go upmarket. Although, it is a bit sinister and lazy of Chamberlain to base his conclusions on a single testimony of the shack owner. He could have interviewed a few more locals to deliver more insight as opposed to solely draw a conclusion based on an interview with the owner of the Shack Welfare society.
This isn’t the first time Gethin Chamberlain has got his facts wrong. In 2009, he wrongly reported 2000 people were released from the Sri Lankan government’s internment camps for Tamils. This was incorrect, and a correction followed stating the number was 5153 and more, according to the United Nations.
Another article written in context with the ever increasing numbers of rape across India read, ‘If girls look sexy, boys will rape. Is this what Indian men really believe?’
The views reflected in the article were based on interviews with five waiters at a restaurant along a seaside beach, presumably unemployed. Why, of course, these would be anything but, shocking. Having been raised in Goa, this was not the mentality of the many men folk and peers I went to university or played sports with.
If I were to put this into the gang crime context in London, this is the equivalent of myself walking up to a row of council flats in a dodgy suburb of London and asking the young unemployed if they would murder another for their belongings.
The response is obvious.
Chamberlain is an example of a western journalist reporting in an eastern country where his views are visibly inaccurate on many levels. When trying to paint the picture of a country abroad, it’s ludicrous to compare Goa to Blackpool; and the government’s aim to ban British travellers is disingenuous.
For those who read this, even well-heeled travellers will have a misinformed view of the place and its people, when in truth, the facts state otherwise. So while the Goa government is well meaning in implementing new laws for tourism, could there have been a misunderstanding in Chamberlain’s reportage?
As Edward Said pointed out in his book Orientalism, ‘Western study of the oriental countries was political intellectualism meant for European self-affirmation, rather than for objective intellectual enquiry and academic study of Eastern cultures. Hence, Orientalism functioned as a method of practical, cultural discrimination applied as a means of imperialist domination, producing the claim that the Western Orientalist knows more about the Orient than do the Orientals.