We normally blame the outsiders, especially the Indian tourists coming to Goa considering it an invasion of outsiders in our state. We do not want to comment on how justified that is, but this story will change the entire perspective of Goan people. This story is written by of one of the businessmen Mr. Prashanth Rao Aroor from Maharashtra, who owns the chain of hotels in Mumbai and it his first-hand experience while his stay in Goa. A trip to Goa is a dream come true for the tourists. But sometimes all that glitters is not gold. Many times the local Goans are the main reason to spoil the image of Goa by giving out a bad experience to the tourists. Recently a family from Mumbai who visited Goa had a disturbing experience and they pleaded to the Government of Goa and the Tourism Department to pay attention to a particular issue which might later become a real deal breaker for the state. What was that entire experience all about? Read the experience, right from the horse’s mouth.
Recently, my family decided to take a vacation in Goa. A huge bunch of about 18 people, we booked ourselves at Candolim at an upscale hotel owned by a well-known national chain. Meanwhile, a friend called and asked me as a favor to visit a few boutique hotels she owned for my views, and said she would send me her ‘Private’ car to shuttle me around to all her hotels for a visit.
So the following morning, true to her word, her driver and car were at the hotel in Candolim at the designated time. My wife, my cousin, who is an architect, and I walked out of the gate and boarded the car. As we were backing out, a bunch of taxi drivers who were lounging outside the gate walked up to the driver and asked him menacingly, “Do you not know you are not allowed to pick up people from here?”
I told the taxi man in question that it was my friend’s private car and that it had been sent to pick me up. He immediately responded with confidence, “I don’t care if it’s your brother’s car. You can’t use it. You have to take a taxi from us.”
By this time, my sense of justice and fair play was working up but because I didn’t want trouble for my friend. I said, “Alright. Next time we will take your car but this car is here. Let us go. There are ladies in the car and your behavior is disturbing.” Then he got aggressive. He said, “Do what you can. Call the police. There is no way we are letting this car move.”
In order to avoid a full altercation I told the driver to go back and decided to walk some distance and then take another taxi as there was no way, we were traveling with these goons. I assumed if my friend’s car did not pick anyone up, then no ‘crime’ had been committed and it could leave without any further drama.
We did just that and once I got to my friend’s hotel, I checked on the status of the car and the manager told me that it had been commandeered and taken to Goa Police for ‘breaking the law’. I was shocked. Shortly after that, I got a call from the local police control room confirming my name and number and asking me why I was creating trouble for the taxi people and what business I had in Goa. I explained to him that it was a personal vehicle belonging to my friend and asked which law prevented me from being driven in it. He side tracked and spoke about who I was and what I was doing there and hung up. If it were not for family with me, I would have gone to the station and tested their theory.
I forgot about the whole incident. Recently, I was in Goa again and met the same friend who told me that the car was with the cops in Panaji for two days and that she had to pay a fine to release it. This really rankled me. Now I feel it must go through the full test of the law. It is a huge danger to the tourism industry as a whole. Taxi unions have been progressively getting more aggressive and will soon hold the state and industry to ransom.
I hope the powers that be and the legal minded among us share your views on my position on this and what should be done about it. Goa’s government is busy expanding the bandwidth of air seats to Goa and new tourism-oriented projects are coming up. Road infrastructure is catching up. This one cancer has the danger of disturbing the peace and ease of tourism here causing long-term damage to the state.
In the interest of Goa tourism, and brand India, and as a person with deep rooted emotional and career investment in hospitality and tourism, I plead with the government of Goa, the tourism department and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to pay attention to this before it becomes a real deal breaker for the state.
The author is the MD and CEO of a well-known hotel chain based in Mumbai.