Tourism plays an important role in the economies of both Goa and the Maldives. For the Maldives, it provides 17 percent of the gross domestic product, over 25 percent of government revenue and around 60 percent of the foreign exchange earnings. For Goa, tourism generates 13.7 percent of the state’s net domestic product, 7 percent of employment and 7 percent of tax revenues. Both states capitalize on their comparative environmental advantages: beach and sunshine. Goa also capitalizes on its unique historical and cultural heritage while the Maldives on its unique archipelagic and coral reef marine environment. Their products and approaches to tourism development are very different: Goa promotes heterogeneous tourism development with upscale and inexpensive charter tourism to international and domestic audiences.
The Maldives concentrates on upscale, international tourism. The experiences in tourism of Goa and the Maldives vary in terms of their environmental impacts, social conflicts and institutional responses. After reviewing both experiences, there is much that Goa and the Maldives can learn from each other. Other states could also learn from the experiences of these two tourist spots in South Asia.
The preservation of the natural environment, the prudent use of natural resources, disposal of solid waste and sewage, and the depletion and deterioration of groundwater attributable to tourist inflows are, among others, issues which both governments face. In Goa, “the growth of coastal tourism has been rapid and uncontrolled,” notes the paper by Sawkar et al. Tourism development has resulted in, the loss of biodiversity, erosion of sand dunes, declining fish catches, accretion and siltation and depletion of groundwater.
Although the environmental diversity and sensitivity of Goa has been widely known, a complex mixture of customary rights, land ownership, a variety of stakeholders with very differing interests, and ineffective institutional and political structures seem to have made it difficult for Goa to define a tourism strategy and to enforce its implementation. In the Maldives, the rapid increase, albeit government controlled, in the number of resorts over the last two decades has also taken its toll on the environment.
The paper on the Maldives by Saeed, acknowledges environmental damage from beach erosion, an alteration of ocean currents, loss of biodiversity, water, soil and nutrient pollution and damage to its coral reefs most notably from mining for construction, anchoring of boats and diving. The Government has played a key role in promoting tourism on unoccupied islands (or abandoned islands where customary usufruct rights were compensated) through certain traditionally powerful families and with certain funding arrangements to encourage foreign investments; the government has been closely monitored the development of tourism.