Since the 1970s, Goa has become a popular tourist destination in India. There are beautiful beaches, excellent south Indian food and the cost is relatively affordable. One can find adequate beach huts for as little as ₹1000/night (or about $15/night). Which is a fantastic deal for the traveller. And for the Goan economy, tourism has crept up to about 30% of total GDP.
Which makes it more curious that, until very recently, all shacks and huts had to be dismantled each year! In September of each year, entrepreneurs via for licenses allowing them to build beach huts. And then they construct temporary huts each year for the tourist season, which lasts until May. In May, as the tropical environment scorches the terrain, tourist season is low and these entrepreneurs have to deconstruct their huts. They wait through the monsoon season of June through August and re-apply the following year.
Some questions naturally follow from this policy:
- Is this good for the environment that non-concrete and non-permanent structures are built? Or is it environmentally detrimental to construct/deconstruct these annually?
- For the community, does it allow a wider participation to have lotteries for licenses each year to avoid incumbent cartel-ization? Or is the economic cost of rebuilding huts each year prohibitive - and lead to lower quality huts?
- If outsiders (e.g foreigners) are not allowed to own these huts, is capital inflow limited? How much should hut owners be taxed given they have a partial rentier rider (i.e. they won a lottery to capitalize on a natural resource - the beach)?
Since the beaches are a natural, communal resources, it seems that the licenses should be allocated by lottery - for longer than a year! - and that the licensees should be taxed heavily for the use of these resources. The Goan community seems to have already started down this road with licenses now for 3 years with the added benefit that they do not have to be torn down each year.
This still leaves many econo-environmental issues. For example, how to solve the rentier problem as a consequence of license lotteries - in which the winners charge exorbitant sums from current hut operators who did not win a license. Or how to balance capital influx from outsiders without losing the Goan flavor? And, of course, how to protect this natural resource from the rising sea levels?
These are the questions that Goans and Indians will have to answer to keep this paradise intact.