Goa anticipates huge losses this year as govt keeps foreign tourists at bay
Foreign tourists occupy hotels for a much longer duration than the domestic tourists, says industry insiders.Updated: Oct 23, 2020, 13:10 IST
As Covid-19 cases begin to rise again across Europe and Russia dimming hopes that India may reopen its borders for foreign tourists this season, Goa is staring at the first ever season without the arrival of European tourists since the 1960s when the first hippies arrived here.
The Indian government on Thursday announced that most visas including for all OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India), PIO (Person of Indian Origin) card holders and foreign nationals were being restored except for tourist visas. Goa Tourism says the restriction on tourism visas will deal a huge blow to the industry.
Goa’s tourism season usually begins with the receding monsoon and as winter sets in across the northern hemisphere, those seeking to escape the often biting cold climes choose to spend time in warmer parts of the world and Goa is among the preferred destinations for those seeking to travel.
“I have been coming to Goa for about 15 years, I guess, [and] I know there are plenty out there who have been visiting for much longer than I have. I have heard Goa is already opening up to tourism… [but] no sadly there is no chance of visiting India this winter. Until this pandemic is under some control, it is just too dangerous especially for an older and not so healthy folk!” Polly Hoad, a British tourist, who said she will have to sit out the harsh winter back home in the UK for the first time in 15 years.
She is not alone. For many Britishers for whom travelling out of the UK for the winter had become a habit and Goa was a destination of choice, an inability to travel even if they are willing to take the risk, will force them to sit back.
“It will be our first Xmas in England for over twenty years but I will make the best of it,” Lili Angel, another regular tourist, said.
While tourism has reopened in the state and people from within other states of India have begun to come in, India is not issuing tourists visas as of now and is unlikely to lift the restrictions any time soon, especially, given the return of a second wave in much of Europe including the UK, Germany, Poland Russia and Ukraine, the primary sources of foreign tourists to Goa.
The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) believes that the arrival of foreign tourists is vital for the state’s tourism industry.
“Foreign tourists travel in larger groups and stay for a longer time, often the average duration of stay is between 14-21 days. To compensate for the loss of a single foreign booking, a hotel will have to secure four to five different bookings of domestic tourists to maintain the same level of occupancy,” Nilesh Shah the president of the TTAG, told HT.
A domestic tourist on average stays between 3-7 days. Many mid to large hotels depend entirely on foreign arrivals through deals with charter companies and now find themselves all at sea.
“We have been working with the government to try and get some arrangement in place wherein tourists can be chartered in via an air bubble agreement of some kind,” Shah said.
“It (the continued suspension of tourist visas) is obviously a disappointment. At the same time, we also have to be realistic keeping in view that cases are rising once again in Europe, so the future remains uncertain,” he added.
“The government needs to announce that tourist visas will be allowed once again, if not immediately then two months down the line because people can then begin to plan their holidays. Tourists especially foreign tourists like to plan their holidays well in advance and do not suddenly get up and decide to travel the next day,” he added.
Across the last three calendar years, Goa received around eight million tourists, around one million of which were from abroad. The number is expected to fall sharply this year.