The tourism industry has received some advice from a most unlikely quarter – Goa’s Catholic Church!
With over 25 percent of the state’s population being Roman Catholic, the Catholic Church has a significant sway in Goa, which also attracts over 2.6 million tourists annually. But until now, it has remained silent on important economical issues such as tourism.
The Catholic Church claimed that it was only the rich and the powerful that were hiving off profits earned by Goa’s multi-million dollar tourism industry, leaving virtually nothing for the local inhabitants of the state. Speaking at an annual reception in the Bishop’s House, Archbishop of Goa Reverend Filipe Neri Ferrao said the State Government and the Goa Tourism Department needed to pursue “ethical and holistic” tourism initiatives.
“Our people seem to be systematically dispossessed by the powerful and the rich, who see their own profits as being of higher value than the people of the land,” Ferrao said.”Our anxiety stems from the fact that too few of benefits seem to percolate down to the genuine holders of rights over tourism, that is, the original inhabitants of our coastal areas where the bulk of tourism happens.”
Although falling short of suggesting “concrete technical guidelines” to make tourism sustainable, Ferrao said the tourism industry should not only consider economic, but also ethical issues.
Focusing on the common man, Ferrao said that the common man should be allowed to run “small businesses along the coast in order to compensate for their displacement”. At the moment, it is extremely difficult for a local person with no influence to start his own business. But if Goa’s tourism is to become sustainable in the long run, it must change this.
Truly sustainable tourism is tourism that benefits not only the guest but also a large portion of local society. Instead, it is only the large multinational hotel corporations such as Marriott, Taj and Leela that are making huge profits, with little of the economic boom trickling down to the local population. Few big hotels employ locals, preferring to bring in staff from bigger cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. In addition, foreign based hotel chains repatriate all their profits back to their home countries, leaving little money in the state.
It is only when the economic benefits of tourism benefit all, especially the small businessman, that tourism will be seen in a positive light. And this call by the Catholic Church is but the first step.