| More the merrier' A scene from Dil Chahta Hai in which the character played by Saif Ali Khan is conned by a foreign tourist in Goa
London, Dec. 21: First the good news. Goa has become the favourite destination for British holidaymakers at Christmas.
Now the really bad news. Goa has become the favourite destination for British holidaymakers at Christmas.
If the decline and fall of Spanish resorts is anything to go by, British lager louts will ensure that the former Portuguese colony is very quickly transformed into the “Costa del Goa”.
It was disclosed today that “Goa has overtaken America as the top long-haul Christmas holiday destination. The west Indian state, renowned for its warm weather, long beaches, cheap prices and exotic food, has jumped from third to first spot this year, according to a survey.”
Tourism has always been a controversial issue in Goa. Although it clearly provides a huge boost for the local economy and creates thousands of new jobs, it has long been alleged that water is diverted away from locals towards western tourists who live in new hotels.
It has also been claimed that large tracts of land, which contain the hotels for westerners (and wealthy Indian visitors), are locked off to poorer sections of the local communities.
Although Goa has also become popular with Germans, Scandinavians and other Europeans, it is the behaviour of a section of British holidaymakers that will cause most concern. Such Britons tend to get seriously drunk and find novel ways of making a nuisance of themselves.
On the Greek island of Faliraki, for example, police are kept busy by the alcohol-fuelled antics, often sexual, of young British men and, increasingly, women.
The Spanish island of Ibiza has become notorious for the “anything goes” attitude of young Britons, whose cultural experience consists of going from one drinking club to the next during the night and then sleeping off the effects during the day.
Although it is important not to portray all young Britons as drunken yobs, the British themselves recognise they have more than their fair share.
All this is quite separate from the strain on natural resources caused by mass tourism. Today’s report should certainly provoke the local authorities in Goa to be aware of the consequences of a sharp rise in the number of British tourists ' Indians with Indian passports are not allowed to fly on chartered flights from the UK to Goa (in case they use them as a cheap way of visiting their relatives in India).
It is pointed out that Goa, which was a Portuguese colony until 1961 when it was taken back by India, “was a hippie haunt in the sixties and seventies but is now one of the fastest-growing package holiday destinations”.
Goa is being promoted as India’s answer to the Cannes film festival but high prices on the Cote d’Azur have ensured this bit of France is not overrun by package tourists.
Goa (like other parts of India) is now within easy reach of the average British holidaymaker. “Charter airlines such as Monarch fly daily from airports such as Gatwick and Manchester to the main city of Panjim,” states today’s report.
After India and America, the other favourite holiday destinations for the British are Kenya, the Dominican Republic, the Maldives and Trinidad & Tobago.
Fares to Goa are rock bottom. A website company, Lastminute.com, offers a two-week bed and breakfast in the resort of Calangute for '299. That the temperature in Goa is around 27 degrees Celsius (compared with just above freezing in many parts of Britain), adds to the attractions.
John Bevan, flights director at Lastminute.com, said: “Trips to India have outsold the States this Christmas, which we believe is indicative of the country’s booming tourism.”
If true, this represents a mixed blessing for India. “Goa is no longer just the preserve of backpackers,” Bevan told the Evening Standard newspaper in London. “India is now a mainstream holiday choice.”