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Most of the beaches in Konkan are pristine and un-littered like this one near Ganapatipule in Ratnagiri district. (Photo: Abhay Vaidya)

Tourism along much of the Konkan coastline in Maharashtra is sustainable because it has remained a cottage industry. In this lies its strength and beauty, says Abhay Vaidya, while pointing out that that the “Home Stay, bed and breakfast” model of Konkan tourism can be popularized across the country to promote self-employment to people in small towns.

Rich lessons can be drawn in sustainable tourism from what one gets to see along much of the 700 km long Konkan coast in Maharashtra. It is this same coastline that leads to Goa- among the most prominent tourist destinations in India and also among the most notorious. The drug-and-hippie culture has tarnished the image of tourism in Goa as also child sex tourism and the presence of the Russian mafia which, according to press reports, is embroiled in real estate deals and prostitution, impacting the crime graph in Goa.

Tourism that is commercially-driven has serious pitfalls. As in the case with Goa or the hill stations of Lonavla, Mahableshwar and Shimla where diesel fumes and concrete have overwhelmed the natural environs.

The beach at Malgund near Ganapati Pune, Ratnagiri district (Pic: Abhay Vaidya)

It is essentially by accident and not entirely by design that tourism in much of the Konkan districts which include Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg has remained a cottage industry. In this lies its strength and beauty. This charming model of cottage-scale tourism in Konkan needs to be guarded and protected fiercely to prevent Konkan from being ravaged by the conventional tourism industry. The Konkan tourism model- which is one of the success stories of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is one that can be picked and promoted by many other states in India, not just those blessed with  a coastline. Home Stay, bed and breakfast was introduced by MTDC in 1997, "to promote self-employment to people of small towns". Since then, this model has caught on successfully.

It is a well-known fact that tourism creates more jobs than any other sector for every rupee invested. The direct and indirect employment that tourism has generated in this region of Maharashtra is especially a blessing as Konkan is bereft of industrial activities.

One of my recent family vacations was at a homely beach resort at Malgund- a place that I had never heard of, just a few kilometres from Ganapatipule in Ratnagiri district. Although Ganapatipule was chock-a-block with traffic and tourists as it is a pilgrim spot and a beach rolled into one, the Malgund beach was as good as deserted and peaceful because it had just one resort opening out to the beach.

As one gets to see in much of Konkan, the waters at Malgund were clear and the beaches pristine and un-littered. The resort had eight cottages furnished comfortably- not lavishly- and the place was run by a couple with the wife managing the kitchen with her helpers. Seafood being a speciality of the coastal areas, guests, at many places in Konkan have the luxury of deciding on their lunch and dinner menu because the numbers are manageable for the resort owners. Whether it was at Malgund or at Tarkarli in Sindhudurg district or at Karpe Wadi, Alibaug, the resort owners who also functioned as the managers, were hospitable and friendly.

 

 

Property owners have constructed small cottages on the beach-front to attract tourists to their homely resorts.

Many of them are first-generation tourism entrepreneurs who succeeded in transforming their properties into small and medium-sized resorts. The resort owner at Malgund was most  unassuming about owning a Pajero SUV and a Skoda but that reflected his simplicity and the level of confidence and success he had achieved. Hundreds others who couldn’t put up their own resorts have also become entrepreneurs by partnering with MTDC and offering affordable “home-stay”, bed-and-breakfast close to the beaches on the Konkan coast. Many tourists prefer to stay in such places rather than in hotels.

There’s a vast food processing industry that also runs in cottage-units throughout Konkan, with a variety of processed foodstuffs ranging from mango pulp, kokum syrup, cashew, pineapple to rice products and more, all of which grow locally.

Sophisticated water sports including snorkeling, scuba diving, motorboat  and water scooter rides and parasailing are available at various spots in Konkan. At the Arey-Vare beach near Ganapatipule, I was impressed that the  motorboat operator who took tourists out to the sea had a dozen life jackets in different sizes readily available. This showed that rules were being enforced appropriately.

The landscape in much of Konkan has not concretised because most of these first generation Maharashtrian businessmen are averse to taking risks and are happy with their cottage-scale operations.  This also gives them better control over their business and  make their own rules: While some won’t allow bachelors because they tend to become boisterous and noisy after a few drinks, some others may decide not to serve liquor. Boozing is not a part of the Konkan culture as it is in Goa, although a number of “beer shoppes” abound throughout this coastal region.

 

The Prachin Konkan Museum at Ganapatipule is worth a visit.

What are the lessons that one can draw from the Konkan model of tourism?


The vast and varied expanse of India encompassing a range of climatic zones and terrains offers an extraordinary potential for the billion dollar tourism industry which is on a growth trajectory. Can the various state governments then follow the Konkan model to promote tourism and allied food processing as a cottage industry which will not only serve as an engine of growth but also of employment?

The government’s role would be to offer basic infrastructure, incentives and a regulatory mechanism, leaving the rest to the people to follow the Konkan model at their creative best.
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Comments   

#1 shiva 2015-12-24 11:53
Yes, even I believe in this.

Konkan is a better alternative to Goa. We had been to Vengurla. And there was not a moment we regretted our decision.
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