Visa On Arrival in Goa hopeful

There seems to be good news and bad news for the tourism industry in Goa. 

The good news is that the Indian government has decided to to ease restrictions on tourist visas that made a two-month gap between consecutive visits by foreign nationals to India mandatory. But while this is a step in the right direction, the bad news is that Goa still does not have the Visa On Arrival facility (VoA).

However, the tourism industry is hopeful that the India Government will finally heed Goa’s request to be allowed to issue Visas on Arrival (VoA). 

In my many years of experience in the tourism industry, the one thing that I have found to be most effective in increasing tourist visitors to a destination is by relaxing visa rules. Obama has understood this and as a result, the procedures to get a US visa have been drastically simplified. My mother got a 10 year US visa recently and even my sister easily got a US visa. 

Russia, on the other hand, still believes in making tourist visas as difficult to get. And that is one of the reasons why tourists prefer not to go to Russia. 

Goa, on the other hand, has been pressing for a simplified visa procedure for quite some time now.  

Nilesh Cabral, Chairman, Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC), has rightly described the decision to ease the two-month gap as a “good thing, a good step” but only the first step. Cabral said he is very happy that the Government of India has heeded the several requests from Goa government and the Goa tourism trade to ease the restriction. “Now, I hope they consider our request to enable Goa to issue VoA as that would be immensely beneficial to Goa tourism”.

And indeed it will. Travelling is difficult enough without having to go through the extra trouble of getting a visa. Thailand has understood this and offers Visas on Arrival for a number of countries. This is why Thailand is one of the most popular destinations worldwide. And the tourist numbers keep rising. 

Ralph de Souza, Spokesperson, Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), said that this will particularly help Goa to cater to the 80 per cent Finnish tourists who visit Goa. If we can issue visa on arrival in Goa, the sagging Scandinavian market will be revived. We were losing lots of British tourists who were long stayers in Goa. This segment of tourists will come back now,” Souza said.

Presently, visa on arrival is only issued in the four metros of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. This means that presently, if tourists want to avail of VoA, they have to come via Mumbai, which adds to their cost. This also works against direct charters landing in Goa. 

With the world economy down, India and Goa must try and do everything in their power to attract foreign tourists to the country. And a Visa on Arrival is one of the most effective means of doing so. The tourism industry in Goa provides livelihood to a large portion of the population and it is time that the Government did all it could to help this struggling industry. 

Not only should the Visa on Arrival facilitity be made available in Goa, the number of countries that are included should also be increased. While it is understandable that there are security concerns that need to be kept in mind, a balance between security and tourism must be found. 


The tale of the Goan “shippie”

Ask anyone in Goa or South India for that matter what or who a Goan Shippie is and they will tell you –  someone who works full time on a ship, usually a Merchant Navy ship. 

But unlike in England where it was the lure of the sea and the big, bad world out there, Goan Shippie’s were forced to leave their homeland in search of jobs, due to lack of employment opportunities in Goa. With no single major industry in the territory and agriculture producing rice that was insufficient for even 4 months of the year, many Goans were forced to leave their homeland in search of a career at sea, especially if they wanted to feed their families. 

Thus Goans, mostly Christians, began to leave Goa for nearby Mumbai (then Bombay), Poona, Calcutta and other places in India, and for Africa, the Arabian Gulf, and former Persian Gulf areas, Burma and Malaya, then the British Empire.

With their easy going “susegaad” nature, natural intelligence and knowledge of English and Portuguese, Goan’s were a popular choice as seamen.

Both being Christians, the British employers were also partial to Goan seamen or shippies and hired the educated as clerks, and the uneducated as butlers, cooks, waiters in their homes, clubs and hotels. Goan shippies were also much in demand as chief stewards, barmen, cooks, and saloon and cabin crew of big and luxurious cabin liners.

But most importantly, Goan shippies were known for their hard work and positive attitude to work. Willing to work for many months at a stretch without a break, Goan shippies were known as being reliable, honest and hard-working.

These qualities are hard to come by in today’s Goan youth, one old-timer tells me. “Today, the youth in Goa is only interested in drinking, partying and having a good time. They don’t have the work ethics and respect for work that we had. Probably because of easy money coming from tourism and mining and sale of ancestral homes and land, they don’t have to work hard any more. In our time, it was different – work was worship” he wistfully recalls. 

View from my Balcao – Liberty Port

View from my Balcao …my Dad blogs from Goa

Visitors, and they will descend in hordes come October, to this island in the sun, make the rulers of this tiny state genuinely believe that commerce & vice go hand-in-hand. Maybe true of the rampant mining over the past decade and more. Not entirely true of tourism.

Goa is certainly not a twilight zone of drugs, booze & sleaze, as is currently being made out – Bombay & Delhi score higher, for sure. Its just a fun-place where richie-rich kids from Bombay & Delhi (and lesser cities) come to have a spot of merriment. Beer, nay any booze, is ridiculously cheaper than other cities, so why not indulge in an extra tipple when on holiday. And why traveel all the way to Pattaya when Goa is round the corner.

The social-service wing of the ruling government has grabbed headlines for their enthuisiastic attempts to curb night-life. This middle-class anxiety about hedonism could change the perception of Goa forever, making it a dull and boring beach-state as against the carefully nurtured halo of being a free-and-easy one. Their puritanism appears naive at best. Bombay & Delhi too have rocking night-life, so why single out Goa ?

Goa serves a singular purpose of allowing young (and old too !) folk, engaged in stressful lives of today’s money-changing world, to chill-out and get a taste of Goa’s famed laid-back (sosegaad) lifestyle.

Goa’s night-time avatar is unknown to many – hot-spots at Baga/Anjuna/Calangute or any of the casinos moored in the inland-waters, that start rocking by 9pm and shut shop around 6am, and why not. Partying is the sole purpose of holiday-makers to Goa. Goa is not just the gateway to India but also a rocking paradise for the foreign, and increasing now, the Indian tourist.

Lest their prudism turn Goa into the least sexy beach-town in Asia and allow a more strident Pattaya to turn the tables & turnstiles, it must beg the question as to what is good, bad or ugly.

Across the icy gulf of time from the swinging 60s to today, Goa has been India’s best-known secrets among all foreigners.

The ruling Government’s collective anxiety about keeping a clean image of Goa’s beaches must perforce go hand-in-hand with the image of a state that has had 11 CMs in the past 12 years, excluding the previous Congressman, and one that allows the mining-casino lobby as much freedom as the beach-bums of yore.

Putting a check on both is certainly advisable, given the burgeoning mining & casinos scams, & increasing number of rape cases, but lets not overload it to cause it to tipple the other way and take away the charm of Goa’s liberty to all its visitors. The present CM, who has a blue-blooded engineering degree to his name, will have to find the correct balance, a middle-path as the wise Buddha said of life.