Goa Is Now Open For Tourism. But Does That Mean We Should Go?
Recently, a Mumbai-based travel content creator, Shenaz Treasury, came under fire for having escaped to Goa after the state government opened its doors to tourism. In her Instagram posts, we see Treasury exclaiming at the emptiness of Goa streets, reveling in the freedom she feels after being shut in her home under lockdown, and justifying her escapade as helping the state’s tourism industry. Soon after, Goans started commenting on her posts, some berating her for not wearing a mask, and others denouncing her glorification of Goan tourism during a time when the state is still seeing an uptick in Covid19 cases while dealing with an overwhelmed healthcare system.
Taking the microcosm of Treasury’s experience in Goa as a snapshot of how the tourism industry is coping amidst the coronavirus pandemic, we see a bigger problem reveal itself — that the health of a population is often at odds with their means of livelihood, and in trying to save the latter, we’re often forced to compromise the former.
Around the world, countries that opened up their borders to enjoy much-needed economic relief from tourism are now shutting down again, panic-stricken at the rise in Covid19 cases that accompanied the easing of lockdowns. Spain, for example, has shut down nightclubs again, whilst urging people to “not lose respect for the virus.” South Korea, which emerged as an early winner against the pandemic, is now battling a second wave, with triple digit-increases in coronavirus cases daily, all due to a holiday in May that became a trigger for new infections.
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These examples are ubiquitous, and are easily explained by a rudimentary understanding of the coronavirus pandemic — the virus is still infecting people. Despite Covid19 tests, rigorous mask usage, and social distancing, people are still vulnerable to contracting the novel coronavirus, and spreading it from one place to another, whether or not they show symptoms. Now, allowing tourism is not necessarily equal to sanctioning crowded parties, but we know from other parts of the world — most recently, Peru — that it’s a slippery slope, and subtle restrictions — mask-wearing, limiting the number of people allowed to congregate — are harder to enforce.
Now that the Goa government has opened up state borders, policing tourists who are reveling in their newfound freedom will be an added, difficult task that takes away from the state’s resources. The risk crowds of tourists pose is not just to the locals, but also to each other. This risk, of course, needs to be weighed against the economic cost people in Goa will incur, now that those immersed in the tourism industry have a chance to restart their livelihoods. But this is a messy decision, both for tourists and for locals who decide to go to work and expose themselves to people from far away. Just because the government has given the okay doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in everybody’s best interest to pack our bags and move to Goa.
Either way, there will be a trade-off — health versus livelihood, health versus travel, health versus mental peace. Now that Goa’s state government has made its decision and declared its priority, it’s up to the tourist to decide which trade-off they’re comfortable with.