A CHANGING SCENE: COVID-19 pandemic impacts on lives of travel economy stakeholders in Goa
This dissertation is based on two months of ethnographic fieldwork in North Goa, India. It concerns impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel economy stakeholders, in relation to their perception of their living situations, both present and future. Travel economy has tentatively been used as a separate category from the dominating tourism industry, to describe the experiences of people doing business within the alternative and international travel scenes of Goa. During fieldwork, qualitative methods of participant observation and Rapid Ethnographic Assessment Procedures (REAP) were applied. The aim has been to gain a holistic and emic perspective of pandemic impacts. I explore relationships between global travel flows, subcultures, neoliberalism and crisis, through four temporalities: Pre-pandemic, pandemic, (the ethnographic) present and future. I discuss themes that have been important to participants during the fieldwork, using anthropological literature and theory. Theories concerning crisis, economics, mobility, subcultures, space and temporality have been of relevance. Key analytical terms include: Disaster capitalism, neoliberalism, cosmopolitanism, neotribalism, binary opposition, symbolic space and nostalgia. The anthropological fieldwork and analysis has highlighted the economic, social and personal hardships endured by people in the travel economy of Goa since the pandemic. It shows that the hardships have, by and large, been the results of the way pandemic restrictions were enforced and lifted, as the authorities have shown little awareness of cultural values and practices of the travel economy. I therefore argue that it is of great importance to keep local cultural variations in mind when designing future crisis and disaster management efforts, to minimise people’s losses and suffering.