The new face of Goa Tourism!

AT THE MEET-THE MEDIA EVENT…. for the launch of two visionary initiatives. Goa as a model of regenerative tourism in India and G.O.A- Global Opportunities Aggregator, a platform to redefine global opportunities. Releasing t-shirts to mark the event is Goa Tourism & IT Minister Rohan A Khaunte with his GTDC colleagues.

IT is interesting how savvy politicians nowadays woo media people with such attractive invitations nowadays! Not your plain old-fashioned press conferences anymore with Q/A session when one may ask all manner of questions to get all manner of answers good, bad or ugly.
Nowadays press conferences are high tech presentations with video presentations of new campaigns, several optical moments when appropriate T-shirts or other memorabilia is released…there is lunch, tea-time, dinner and for media from out of Goa even a two-day complementary stay at say a starry holiday resort.
IN this case last week I found myself going out to an old favourite of mine in Goa – the Mercure Goa Devaaya Resort on Divar Island, at one time Goa’s pioneering Ayurveda retreat courtesy the late industrialist and hotelier Victor Albuquerque who with his wife Sylvia started the vegetarian movement in Goa. Both became vegetarian too and you may imagine how difficult it must have been for them having grown up in Goa’s Catholic meat-eating families, but for health reasons converted to be more vegetarian than non-vegetarian. I remember the ever smiling Victor Albuquerque with a lot of warm affection.

DEVAAYA had an excellent Ayurveda facility at one time, today I’m not so sure! But this is about visiting what is now the lovely Mercure Goa Devaaya Resort on Divar Island anew. Goa’s dynamic Minister for Tourism IT, E & C Rohan A Khaunte wanted to meet media people from Goa, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and elsewhere to announce the changing face of Goa Tourism. It’s a three-year plan to promote Goa beyond its beaches to the rest of the world.
Goa can offer so much more than just beach tourism, says the debonair Khaunte. He would like Goa to be a model of “regenerative tourism” in India and a “global opportunities aggregator platform to redefine global opportunities.” Golden Goa should also be sought by travellers and tourists and what we call “digital nomads” who seek out places where they may work out of their computer and hand phone from anywhere in the world. It’s true, gen next doesn’t place too much importance on such things as permanent office spaces nowadays.
One may hire spaces and these come in very well outfitted addresses from where one may work in comfort for a few days or weeks or months, and job assignment done move on to see the world elsewhere! Even groups of people work like this, here today, gone tomorrow. Their address is just an online address where you may stay in touch or lose touch.
It was a very upbeat day trip organized by the Department of Tourism & Department of Information Technology, Electronics and Communications, Govt of Goa to release details of Goa’s new tourism policy to redefine global opportunities and seek quality over quantity when it comes to promoting tourism in Goa in the next three years.
A pleased Khaunte said, “On the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of the Liberation of Goa, Goa Tourism is thrilled to announce the launch of a ground breaking model for regenerative tourism. This innovative approach aims to redefine the tourism industry in India by promoting environmental restoration, cultural preservation, and community empowerment by means of the four paths of spirituality indigeneity, civilisation and cultural nationalism and conscious tourism…” All this as per the values and aspirations defined at the Manila Declaration of world tourism of 1980 and the more recent G20 tourism ministers working group in Goa.
With the launch of Ekadasha Teertha Indian tourism will be emphasising spirituality and wellbeing, and “we are committed to making a positive difference in the environment, culture, and communities we interact with…” All this will define regenerative tourism in Goa, it is all about empowering communities, boosting homestays and introducing a new breed of travellers to Goa’s varied cultures, art and craft, traditional festivals and so on.
What’s not to like about all this on the cards! I love it. I’ve always thought Goa is more than beaches too, for beaches one may go anywhere to South East Asian beaches which are far safer than the ones in Goa – or as Prime Minister Narendra said recently, go to the still pristine Lakshadweep islands which are a continuing chain of the Maldives…something on the lines of dekho aapna desh pehle (see your own wonderful country first)!
All this and much more. All of it sounds very positive, now let it happen. It was a nostalgic moment for me to re-visit Devaaya after a long time and Divar Island where so many of Goa’s notable families have their beautiful ancestral homes; the pharmaceutical industry of Goa was pioneered here by the Pascoal Menezes family in very many ways. Divar Island reminds me in some ways of the famous Bet Dwarka island off the coast of east Gujarat where once Lord Krishna is supposed to have lived and engaged in his brand of diplomacy, something like that. In the realms of ancient mythology lore going back to times immemorial it is often difficult to decide what is plausible and what so much …er…far-fetched nonsense, never mind that religion swears by it for good, bad or ugly!
CUT to today, the Mercure Goa Devaaya Resort is an oasis of peace and harmony with some fabulous old world trees, landscape grounds, a good kitchen and it was pleasure to say hello to an old timer here, general manager Sanjay Pagi who tells me it is Varun Albuquerque who has inherited the 17-year-old property. I walked around a bit and it’s much the same, a heavenly retreat with some gorgeous old world trees. Some school children were enjoying their day trip out here, perhaps part of the Purple Festival on in Panaji for the people of various disabilities, who Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant would like to be integrated more and more into inclusive society and why not, high time if you’re asking me.
If you’re looking for an old world holiday break, you cannot do better than book a cottage room here for yourself to think over many things or just pretend to be a digital nomad! There’s a cameo swimming pool and executive chef is a Chef Machunde, from the lunch we had here it was very good, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Mercure Devaaya is a French company franchisee deal or is it a licensee deal, I’m not sure about the difference between the two. In one case one pays the company abroad for use of its brand name, while in the other they pay you to run your place for you as part of their hotel chain. Something like that.

 GLIMPSES OF Mercure Goa Devaaya Resort on Divar Island GOA...
GLIMPSES OF Mercure Goa Devaaya Resort on Divar Island GOA…

COME to think of it I can think of other places for pleasant media presentations and chat-ups! How about Wildernest in Goa’s Western Ghats, or even Smita & Mahesh Patil’s NV Ecofarm or…anywhere where one may look up a few trees, do you know that trees have more genes than human beings? I got that from my favourite mentor for some time who is a presidential candidate for US elections this year, who else but the inventor of Email and MITs graduate several times over, the Massachusetts-based Dr Shiva Ayyadurrai…may Americans vote him in as their next president.
This Tamil boy from deep down south Tamil Nadu village Muhava is already an icon in the USA, now he only needs to be in a position of power to make a difference for the better from the bottoms up…I am following his story most ardently every now and again! Indians do so well when they brush the dust off Indian soil except that my sister in Chicago says life out in the West is real tough, much tougher and far more expensive than in India or in the south-eastern countries where people are not so stressed out and know how to live in peace and harmony with both diversity and unity interweaving, to make for an agreeable high on happiness index lifestyle, low on monetisation of every damn thing including human relationships.
Hey, I’m thinking of this highly educated and AI qualified Bengali woman Suchana Seth who came all the way to check into a homestay in Candolim in Goa, only to make mincemeat of her four-year-old son and pack him up in a suitcase to return to Bengaluru! Mental health and sanity is something we must all seek and not let the power of wealth destroy us. You’ve heard that before, about how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And why do we seek power? If you’re asking me wealth beyond need, want and greed also corrupts absolutely, except in exceptional cases.
On that note it’s avjo, selamat datang, poite verem, au revoir, arrivedecci, hasta la vista and vachun yeta here for now!

—Mme Butterfly

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