While tourists from across the world come to Goa to enjoy on its picturesque beaches, the locals have of late been holidaying in the state’s hinterland to get respite from the summer heat and humidity.
Several Goans have been rushing these days to the river fronts in the rural talukas of Sanguem in South Goa district and Sattari in North Goa district, thus encouraging a new trend of ‘agro-tourism’ in the state.
There are at least 100 farms in Goa, which operate seasonally, mostly in summer, away from the beaches, a senior state tourism official said.
“While foreign and domestic tourists enjoy on the beaches, the locals in the beach belt try to search for something else. The agro-tourism has, thus, come as a good alternative,” Goa’s tourism minister Manohar Ajgaonkar said.
The state government plans to provide all possible help to boost this hinterland tourism, he said.
“We aim to provide a diverse experience to the visitors. They should know all facets of Goa, right from beaches to our green hinterland,” Ajgaonkar said.
Prashant Desai, the son of former panchayat minister Venkatesh Desai, has turned a bushy patch at Advai village in Sattari into an agro-tourism destination.
“The initial concept was to have modern farming with the cross plantation of banana, areca nut, coconut, papaya, lemon and other trees. But, a few of my well-wishers suggested that I should develop this place into a farm to attract tourists,” he said.
Now, the locals in large numbers throng the place, famous as the ‘peacock farm’.
“My weekends since last four months have been full and now with the vacations on, we have advanced bookings even on weekdays,” Desai said.
He claimed that about 90 per cent of the people coming to his farm were locals, while 10 per cent were visitors from other places, including Mumbai, who got to know about it through the social media.
In the hinterland, one can also find inspirational stories of aspiring tourism entrepreneurs.
Ramchandra Salgaoncar, who manages a papaya farm at Bhironda village in Sattari, left his cushy corporate job to venture into ‘agro-tourism’.
“I left my job in October last year and since then have been associated with this project of agro-tourism. It is a satisfying experience,” Salgaoncar said.
While Goa has the image of being a beach destination, several hotel owners from the coastal belt drive to Salgaoncar’s farm to enjoy a quiet vacation during weekdays.
“The hoteliers are busy during weekends at their own resorts, so they can spare time to visit the farm only on weekdays,” he said.
The agro-tourism concept has been welcomed by professionals from various fields in the state and also young students, who prefer to skip weekends and get some discounts during weekdays to enjoy at these farms, Salgaoncar said.
“The concept of tourism has changed. Now, people don’t want to go to public places with their families. They want a private space where their families can safely enjoy. That is where small farms like ours flourish,” he said.
The Tanshikar farm in Sanguem taluka has been among the first few ‘agro-tourism’ ventures.
Chinmay Tanshikar, who turned his ancestral farm into a tourist attraction, claimed that the number of visitors to his place has been increasing every year.
“The word of mouth publicity works better than any other media campaign,” he said.