Panaji: Move away from the beaches and embrace the indigenous culture of Goa, the Roman Catholic Church here on Friday advised tourists coming to the state.
The Council of Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), a social platform of the Church in Goa which represents nearly a quarter of the state`s population, has also called for a more rounded approach to tourism in the state which according to its spokesperson is "almost exclusively hedonistic in nature and scope".
"Culture is one of Goa`s most precious assets and tourism must seek to advance itineraries through which there can be an encounter of cultures in all tourism spaces - be they food, music, dance, places of religious pilgrimage, rural life, occupational patterns, all aspects of nature - our hills, flora and fauna, birds, animals, our coastal areas, rivers, artistry, archaeology etc," CSJP executive secretary Fr Maverick Fernandes said in an open letter advocating healthy and holistic tourism.
"It is, however, important to guard against Goan culture being reduced to a mere commodity," he cautioned.
He said the manner in which tourism was being promoted in Goa, it had virtually swamped and overshadowed the ethos of Goa and was now dictating terms to the state and its denizens.
"From the inception of mass tourism in Goa, the Church reflected with others on the danger of reducing the host to a hostage, wherein the locals would be pushed to cater to the `varied tastes` of the tourist without allowing them to promote their own culture," Fernandes said.
He said the World Tourism Day, observed Sep 27, called for tourism as a means to linking cultures across the world and that the model needed to be implemented in Goa.
"The theme for this year Tourism - Linking Cultures - represents an important challenge for tourism policy makers and ground-level tourism practitioners all over the world. The challenge fundamentally lies in bringing about a fundamental transformation in the arena of tourism," Fernandes said.
The Centre for Responsible Tourism (CRT), he said, now seeks to set back the negative impacts of tourism and promote patterns of tourism in which the traveller - whether business or holiday maker - gets an experience through which they encounter the multiple dimensions of Goan culture.
The Church in Goa represents nearly 26 percent of Goa`s population of 1.4 million, which is Roman Catholic and is influential in several policy decisions taken by the state government.
Nearly 2.6 million tourists visit Goa`s sunny shores annually, with over half a million of them being foreigners.