Brits never tried to change the community: in fact they reveled in it and tried to join in what was Goan. Goa had a very special place in many Brits' hearts especially those that came back advertising the people, the food and the beauty, it's a shame that some in power did not see this and systematically destroyed our mutual and beneficial relationship

April 22 - 28, 2013

Jan Bostock

I read with interest over the last few years or so why Brits are not flowing into Goa as much as they used to and find quite interesting the analysis of the so-called local experts and the reasons they state. However, after living in Goa for the past eight years, with my own little business, I would like to express my thoughts and point of view.

Although there are multiple reasons, one should understand a couple of the reasons.

A few years ago, Goa or should I say, some Goan politicians, started and created a very anti-British campaign, with the support of the local media, abusing us and condemning us along with blaming us for the bad and negative things that were happening in Goa, but this was a guise, as far as I was concerned, to divert attention from their own ill-doings and shameless scams. A popular south Goan politician even made it clear, "we do not want these British people who are on social security, we want better clientele". Well, whether you like it or not, many Brits who did come had been receiving social security, but they came here to spend it, not claim benefits from Goa, and other than to enjoy themselves, to invest in the local community. Yes, there were some less advantaged Brits coming, but they enjoyed the atmosphere and the two-week holiday they had, to help ease the pain of the not so happy existence in the UK.

Even those from the more affluent British market enjoyed coming to Goa and spending their hard-earned money here and spending lazy days at the local Goan bars, restaurants and soaked in the sights and sounds of Goa.

Brits imbibed local culture

One thing you can say about the Brits, they never tried to change the community: in fact they reveled in it and tried to join in what was Goan.

Even the issues with British buying properties, mostly apartments, villas in gated communities and sadly some of them also bought plots of land (by the way, directed and guided by Goan builders, Goan lawyers) so that they could spend more time here, especially those that were of retirement age. But it became an even bigger issue with the politician shouting loud and banging their chest, or should I say his chest, that 'we do not want you British to come and spend your retirement here' and basically, you're not welcome, also caused a flutter in the system. Little did these narrow-minded, short-sighted people see or understand, these so-called regulars were the best marketing tool Goa could have, as they did free marketing and advertised this beautiful state.

They invited their friends, brothers, sisters, etc, etc who came and contributed to the local economy but never tried to change it. But by now especially after the Scarlett case, the British were truly made unwelcome.

Yes, a lot of Brits are now going to other states in India where they are made to feel welcome, and they are also going to other international destinations, such as Thailand etc. They are even going to Spain more and, you should understand, a week in Spain costs more than two weeks in Goa including flights etc!

Now let's get to other reasons why the Brits have reduced and continue to reduce; yes, the economic situation is not good, but surprisingly it has still allowed many Brits to go to other destinations which would have been in Goa's pocket.

sunbedsSunbeds issue caused outrage

The issue with sunbeds is also a cause for concern. Brits do throw a towel down and lay on the beach in other countries, but in other countries you don't see, cows, dogs and sometimes people shitting and pissing on the beach, spitting pan everywhere, throwing and leaving broken bottles and other debris. Other countries, even the UK, have sunbeds/deck chairs and usually the more affluent people pay a rental for them. However, the working class families are happy to sit on the sand, but they don't fancy sitting on the sand in Goa.

I spoke to some first timers a few months ago and their impression was terrible about it. They were even more shocked seeing men in uniform coming up to fellow tourists and telling them to get off the beds as they are illegal and chopping them up in front of them! (That is great marketing! No?)

Even bulldozers driving onto the beach and pulling shacks down! All these kind of negative actions market the state in a negative light for any civilized tourist. The government should deal with offenders strictly, but not this way.

And then, the visa problems

Now onto another sensitive subject, the tourist visa. It has always been stressful getting a visa to come to Goa, but due to India's tit for tat approach with the UK, this issue may continue for some time. You can no longer get a visa by applying directly to the Indian high commission, so you have to go through agents appointed by the commission, since India has increased the visa fee. So, the cost of a visa including agents fee has doubled to nearly GBP 100.00 (British pounds) per person. So the cost of a visa for a family of four is GBP 400 now. This is affecting everyone's pocket.

So let's not totally blame the British and European Economy as the main reason for the reduction in the British tourist, let's look at the bigger picture, such as dirty beaches, negative attitude to the British tourist by some higher powers, the massive increase in visa fees and I am not going down the road of taxi operators charges as it is a sour subject. And yes, a meter displaying the official rates would change this problem overnight but ha ho, who am I to say anything?

Goa had a very special place in many British tourist hearts especially those that came year after year advertising and marketing the people, the food and the beauty, it's a shame that some in power did not see this and systematically destroyed our mutual and beneficial relationship.

The above is relative to my own experience, conversations with tourist and some understanding of the political scenario that was. Not sure where it will go, but let's hope it is for the better of everyone.

(Jan Bostock lives with his Indian wife and two children on Divar island. Though British, he is a PIO who runs a homestay)