Goafs veteran hotelier, Sunder Advani, CMD, Renaissance Goa Resort began his innings in the state in 1990, and has been keenly involved with the statefs tourism sector ever since.

SUNDER ADVANI
CMD, RENAISSANCE GOA

When Sunder Gurdas Advani opened the Ramada Renaissance Goa Resort on a 24-acre, palm-speckled swath of Varca Beach in 1990, Panaji was just a stopover for the single flight from Mumbai to Kochi. Today, as many as 87 flights take off and land in Goa.

In the 30 years that have lapsed, the resort has seen three identity changes. From the Ramada Renaissance Goa Resort (Advani was Ramada UK’s first Indian franchisee), the sprawling hotel was renamed Ramada Caravela Beach Resort Goa in 2003, after Marriott International took over the brand Renaissance and decided to run all the properties that flew the Renaissance flag. Finally, after Advani ceased to represent Ramada, it became the Caravela Beach Resort.

Just like the property, designed by the same firm of architects that created the famous Sun City, The Atlantis and The Venetian, Goa’s market, too, has seen dramatic changes. And Advani, who built his first hotel — Holiday Inn, Juhu, in 1972 — has seen them all.

The hotel industry veteran was in Delhi recently to receive the SATTE Lifetime Achievemrnt Award. Speaking on the sidelines, Advani pointed out that the German backpackers were the first to discover Goa. Their number fast dwindled because they could not stomach the dirty beaches and the lack of privacy. As they abandoned Goa, Britons, Russians and Israelis filled the void, but today, domestic tourists rule the Goa market.

Economic crises back home caused the Russian and British numbers to dwindle. The British inflow was also hit because of the collapse of Thomas Cook. The Israelis are holding on, although many of them are following the Britins and Russians to Gokarna in Karnataka.

As a result, to quote Advani, Goa gets “too many domestic tourists” drawn either by the casinos – he had opened Goa’s first, but the Sunshine State has six today – or the crowded calendar of weddings and conferences. Advani believes that the Goa market is headed for yet another shakeout. This time around, upscale, high-spending Indian tourists will be the ones leaving for quieter destinations because of people from neighbouring states descending in buses on even the quieter beaches and spoiling their serenity with their loud music and louder parties. Goa, Advani concluded,  desperately needs a new master plan to undo the damage wreaked by unbridled growth and to take the state back to it’s old glory days. 

– by Sourish Bhattacharyya