Major players in Goa’s tourism industry say there has been a nearly 50% drop in foreign visitors over the Christmas period as compared to last year.
New Delhi: The streets of Goa are still basking in the lights of Christmas but this festive season has been a dampener for the tourism industry in the country’s party capital.
Major players in Goa’s tourism industry say there has been a nearly 50 per cent drop in foreign visitors over the Christmas period as compared to last year.
Goa depends on international tourists to sustain its tourism industry. As per industry estimates, international travellers spend Rs 87,000 per person on average as compared to the Rs 31,500 for an average domestic visitor.
According to the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), the Christmas season is favoured by travellers from abroad and as a result, the state witnesses an influx of chartered fights around this time.
This year, according to TTAG, there was an over 30 per cent drop in the number of chartered flights landing in the state between October and November, while the number of foreign tourists had fallen by almost 50 per cent in the same period.
Data with TTAG shows that between October and November in 2017, 423 chartered flights landed in the state bringing in 60,000 foreign tourists. In the same period this year, 283 chartered flights brought in 31,600 foreign tourists — a 33 per cent drop in the number of flights and a 47 per cent fall in tourist numbers.
“The numbers have registered disappointment in the month of December too,” Savio Messiah, president, TTAG, told ThePrint. “While the exact numbers are not yet available, the numbers of foreign tourist arrivals are expected to have fallen dramatically by almost 50 per cent in December as against last year.”
Messiah further said that the trend was the same throughout this tourism season.
According to him, in 2016-17, there were 988 chartered flights and 2.32 lakh foreign visitors between April and October. In 2017-18, there was a slight dip, with the arrival of 808 chartered flights carrying 2.15 lakh foreign visitors.
“This year, tourists from Russia have fallen by almost 55 per cent whereas tourists from the UK have reduced by 30 per cent. These are the two top nations in terms of foreign travellers to Goa,” Messiah said.
According to Aamantran Travels, the company that handles chartered flights to Goa from Russia and the UK, till last year, 15 to 16 fully packed aircraft, with at least 200 tourists on board, would land from Russia every week.
“This year, the number is down to five flights per week and the seat occupancy is less than 70 per cent,” said Deepak Bhatnagar, co-founder of the firm.
ThePrint reached IndiGo and Vistara through email but we are yet to receive a response. This report will be updated when they respond. Air India, however, said the trend of lesser foreign tourist arrivals in Goa “is not visible”.
Why the dip in tourist flow
The tourism industry cited a number of reasons for the falling numbers, including poor air quality across India, “crimes against women” and expensive stay at hotels.
“Due to the increased fees on e-visas on arrivals and increased taxation on the hotel industry, India has become less competitive against upcoming destinations such as Egypt, Thailand, Phuket, and Sri Lanka,” Messiah said.
“Moreover, while deciding on the location for vacations factors such as increasing rape incidents and poor air quality index play a major role.”
The hotel industry in Goa is also up in arms over the application of the 28 per cent good and services tax (GST) on luxury hotels with tariffs above Rs 7,500.
The tax, hoteliers claim, makes India one of the most taxed countries in the world for hotels, and this makes the destination less attractive for foreign tourists who tend to stay in upmarket hotels, unlike domestic tourists who choose budget-friendly hotels.
“Across the world, the taxation on hotel industry is not beyond 8 per cent,” said S.M. Shervani, former president of Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI). “Such high taxes make tourists choose other locations from South Asia that are at par with Goa minus the air pollution and crimes.”
Domestic tourist numbers up
While foreign arrivals have fallen, domestic tourists have increased by at least 20 per cent against last year.
“Our bookings to Goa for domestic tourists have gone up by 20 per cent against last year,” said Karan Anand, head of relationships and supplier management for the travel company, Cox & Kings.
Another popular travel management firm, Yatra.com, echoed Cox & Kings. “While domestic tourist is booking aggressively, the hotels are not packed, unlike last year due to lesser foreigners,” said a spokesperson of Yatra.com. “In fact, at least 30 per cent of the rooms of our partnered hotels are still vacant.”