Federation for
Housing and

The Paradoxes of Tourism

They can’t survive without tourism, but can they live with its effects? As a densely populated state and popular travel destination, Goa embodies the paradoxes of tourism. In February we host an Urban Lab in Goa to help find sustainable solutions.

Commons are turned into luxury hotels, human waste is deteriorating the groundwater quality and the movement by pedestrians and motorised vehicles on the beach destroys the dune vegetation and induce shifting. These are some of the tourism-related problems Goa is struggling with today.


Looking at the numbers, it is not surprising that the area has undergone noticeable changes: Goa supports a population of 1.6 million people (Census of India 2011), but the floating population of tourists and permanent and seasonal migrants is estimated to be almost double the number of residents – 2.65 million.


The major pressure from tourism has resulted in clogged infrastructure, haphazard developments and inadequate basic services, water being the most critical. Massive ground water extraction has led to water shortage, problems with water quality and sea water intrusion.


With the boom in luxury hotels popping up along the coastline, tourism is now competing with the local communities’ need for water resources. An average luxury hotel in the area need 1335 litres of water per room per day. Hotel Park Hyatt in South Goa is an illustrative example of the problem: The hotel consumes 36,217,000 litres of water per day which is nearly double the requirement of the three surrounding villages altogether.


Tourism risks undermining itself


But despite the obvious downsides of tourism, tourism is also vital to the country’s economy. More than 25% of the Goan people are directly involved in the tourism sector and many peoples’ livelihoods depend on it. In 2016, 9.6% of India’s GDP was generated from tourism, and the number of tourists are growing by large numbers every year.


The rich nature, picture-perfect beaches and cheap luxury facilities in the area have long been dragging many of these tourists to Goa. The resource scarcity and changes in the natural landscape therefore pose a double threat to the residents of Goa:


Not only is the environment suffering and the local people lacking access to the most basic resources. In addition, there is a risk that the changes caused by tourism will undermine the tourism industry itself, because the industry is based on the very same resources as it is exhausting – the rich nature and the cheap facilities.


If these resources are drained, the residents of Goa will be left in a severe ecological, social and economic crisis. To avoid this scenario, it is vital that we figure out the key to simultaneously develop tourism and liveable cities.


Goa Urban Lab: Global solutions to local problems


IFHP wish to encompass this paradox of tourism that takes many different forms around the world. As implementation agents of the UN’s Global Goals, it is our mission to help foster genuine, locally rooted, concrete solutions to problems related to cities and social sustainability. We want to transform abstract goals to real social change, and to set up global networks to learn from each other’s best practices.


We cannot solve complex problems such as the tourism paradox in Goa with one-size-fits-all-solutions or fragmented initiatives. We need masterplans of scale – and this requires global expertise, network and sharing of best practices.


Therefore, we organize an urban lab Goa along with our partners Integrated Design, Global Utmaning, SFHP and the Danish Trade Council in India on 6 - 9 February 2018.  The lab is supported by the Nordic Innovation’s Sustainable Cities programme.


We will gather more than 50 Nordic and Indian experts and stakeholders in Goa to discuss the area’s tourism-related challenges and propose concrete long-term solutions. You can learn more about our lab in Goa on our eventpage


More labs in the pipeline


Developing countries are not the only places where rapid urbanisation and newcomers are challenging the existing systems. Hamilton, Canada, a medium-sized city located 60 kilometres south-west of Toronto, is struggling with similar difficulties:


The former hub of heavy coal-industry and blue-collar jobs is changing due to new energy regulations in the country. At the same time the skyrocketing housing market in nearby Toronto has meant that many young people are looking towards Hamilton for an affordable future.


As a result, the City of Hamilton is confronting considerable challenges at the same time arising from an influx of new residents, rising real estate prices, and the sustainable re-development of industrial areas.


This has created a critical need to increase the availability of affordable and sustainable housing in Hamilton; a need that is at present far from being met.


In May, we will organize another Urban Lab in Hamilton along with Climate KIC / Nordic, Quercus Group, Solved – The Clean Tech Company Ltd, Global Utmaning, Royal Consulate Generals of Sweden and Denmark and the City of Hamilton.


More information on our Hamilton Lab will follow.


If you have any questions regarding our Goa and Hamilton Labs, please contact Project Director Ditte Amskov at