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Smartphone tourism

Resting woman using smart phone on a beach

Resting woman using smart phone on a beach

It is peak tourist season in Goa and, according to reports, the footfalls have considerably reduced compared to last year. While many reasons are being cited for this, what is interesting is the change in attitude among tourists over the years. While oftentimes the confident strut that a tourist acquires in Goa could be due to an excess of the Goan party spirit, a more cavalier approach has now become the hallmark of not just Goan but Indian tourism. Rather than approach tourist destinations with sensitivity and contemplation, there is now a sense of bravado, a reckless thirst for adventure, and a mercenary undertone in interactions with locals.

This could be partly due to the rise of information technology, particularly online maps and other applications made available through smartphones that provide tourists a sense of confidence and purpose in unfamiliar places. Bravado and confidence come from knowing that you cannot get lost easily, that all your eating and drinking options are available on the palm of your hand, that even if something were to happen, help can be summoned immediately.

Smartphones and apps have become the bane of Goa. It is commonplace, for instance, to spot motorcycle-borne tourists staring intently at their phones or taking selfies while meandering across public roads, unmindful of the risk to their lives and others’ lives. The uploading of such photos, filtered or unfiltered, on social media also means that few places remain untouched by crowds.

Online apps have made local knowledge and folklore dispensable. Today’s sense of adventure comes from following online recommendations of unknown people — even if those suggestions only reinforce stereotypes. What place then for the wonder of serendipitous discovery on tourist trails?

Online maps and tourism advisory portals also increase visitors’ Fear of Missing Out. Every potential location to visit is anointed with a certain number of stars, which creates a self-fulfilling prophesy for the place and seems to bestow bragging rights for having been there and done that. Do people even truly enjoy these visits any more?

Easy access to online information makes tourists presumptuous, gives them the false sense of knowing the place, or, worse still, becoming locals. It also makes tourism invasive and the tourist akin to a predator or parasitic species.

Online information such as tourism apps has nearly killed the inherent value and worth of word-of-mouth stories and local lore and brought clichés to the fore. While ignorance may not any longer be bliss, the Goan experience makes it hard to argue that knowledge is power, at least the kind that is in harmony with its surroundings.

The writer is the author of 1400 Bananas, 76 Towns & 1 Million People


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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 12:15:01 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/smartphone-tourism/article26168417.ece