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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Goa shuns backpackers
Goa coastline
Tourists are attracted to Goa's golden beaches
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

The authorities in the Indian state of Goa - renowned as a destination for backpackers and ravers - are trying to attract a better class of tourist.

The erstwhile Portuguese enclave was the world's hippie capital in the 1960s and 70s, when backpackers made a beeline for Goa's beaches.


We want wealthy tourists who can make a contribution to the state's economy

Deputy chief minister Narvekar
But Deputy Chief Minister, Dayanand Narvekar, says they no longer want tourists who fly down in charter flights and stay in cheap hotels.

"I have nothing against them. It's just that we want wealthy tourists who can make a contribution to the state's economy," he told the BBC.

Mr Narvekar said hotel rates in some parts of Goa have crashed to less than 150 rupees ($4) a night because budget tourists just do not have the money to pay more.

Anjuna

As part of an effort to discourage backpackers and tourists on shoe-string budgets, local authorities last month announced the closure of the flea market on Goa's Anjuna beach.

Started on Valentine's Day 25-years ago by an American hippie, Eddie Mazmaniam, Anjuna symbolised the carefree, hedonistic hippie lifestyle.

Anjuna flea market
Anjuna market: Goa's hippie hang-out
The weekly flea market was often the last refuge of western tourists who ran out of money in Goa.

They sold their tape-recorders, cassettes, guitars - sometimes even their underwear - to continue their Goan party.

But over the years, Anjuna's flea market also became a haven for drug peddlers.

"The market was losing its old culture... and that could not have been tolerated," Mr Narvekar said.

Claude Alvaris, a local journalist turned environment activist, heads a non-governmental organisation, the Goa Foundation.

He says the flea market is increasingly becoming like any other weekend bazaar where petty Indian traders assemble to sell inexpensive but often fake goods.

He supports the decision to discourage budget tourists.


Is it sensible to snub and turn away the tourists we are getting now?

Sandesh Prabhudesai
"Goa wants to develop tourism as its main industry. Surely that cannot happen till you get the wealthy, upper-crust tourist.

"And that class will not come to Goa [as long as] it enjoys the reputation of being a hippie joint where acid parties and raves are the order of the day," Alvaris said.

Rave crackdown

A temporary truce has now been reached between the authorities and the flea market traders.

But officials warned they would not hesitate to shut down the market for ever if the drug problem continued.

The move to shut down the Anjuna market had followed another order banning the playing of loud music after 10 at night.

Goa tourist
Goa is popular with party goers
It came as a jolt to the local tourist industry - Goa is known for its late night revelry and dusk-to-dawn rave parties on the beach.

"I understand the needs of tourism but the local population cannot be disturbed either," Goa chief minister, Francisco Sardinha reports quoted saying.

Not all are in agreement with the government's attitude towards budget tourists.

Sandesh Prabhudesai, managing editor of a Goa-dedicated website said:"It's one thing to want to up-market tourists and nobody will disagree with the government on that.

"But is it sensible to snub and turn away the tourists we are getting now?" he asked.

He said the government should concentrate on eco-tourism and organise jungle safaris to attract well-heeled tourists to Goa.

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See also:

24 Dec 99 | South Asia
Goa millennium beach party banned
27 Oct 99 | South Asia
Britons cleared of India drugs charge
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