BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
While offshore casinos on River Mandovi are irritants to people living in Panjim, the capital city of Goa, budget hotel owners sit on rocking chairs enjoying the good times.
“As long as the casinos are there, we (budget hotel owners) have not much to fear about our occupancy, as most of our guests are people coming to play in the casinos. They form the bulk of our clientele,” stated the owner of a budget hotel from the city on condition of anonymity.
Panjim has around 20 budget hotels, and gone are the times when occupancy of hotels used to vary according to the season. “The concepts of 'season' and 'off season' are over. Occupancy is constant throughout the year now,” believes Tristan Carvalho, who manages Hotel Marva in the city.
Many hotels have a lot of repeat clients but, with the casinos bubbling on River Mandovi, there has been an increase in the repeat of clients who come to Goa to gamble in the casinos.
“Most of the people coming to Goa to gamble in casinos normally book online. The others are normally those who come to visit Goa. We have guests who have been coming for the last ten years or more. They are our backbone,” informs Tristan.
Charges of budget hotels range from a thousand rupees to even three thousand, depending on the choice of a client of a single or double room and whether air-conditioned or not.
“I do not employ Goans because they are a problem. They make excuses or do not come to work for the slightest of reasons, whereas the same is not true of my staff that are from outside,” says the owner of one of the first budget hotels in the city.
“Apart from their salary, I ask them to share the tips equally. So they get a commission from vehicles hired, from tickets bought for boat cruises and so many other things. Each staff member normally makes around five thousand rupees in tips,” claims an owner.
“We pay 20 per cent running commission to the guide or whoever gets us guests, and we have a special rate for our regular guests. Room rates vary depending on the demand, number of guests, number of rooms and number of days,” claims Harish, receptionist of one budget hotel in the city.
“They will normally be out the whole night, and come and rest for a few hours during the day, and are normally picked up or dropped by a taxi from a casino. They are the least demanding and tip happily when luck seems to be on their side,” said another receptionist when asked to detail guests who visit Goa to gamble.
“We also have guests who come to participate in various seminars or festivals that are regularly hosted in the city. They like to stay around here because of the convenience,” discloses Tristan.
“We offer different facilities to our clients, depending on their output. Our premium guests (read big gamblers) are hosted in five stars and their flights are paid for. The lower-end ones avail of our free stay facilities,” disclosed a manager of an offshore casino on the condition of anonymity.
With the offshore casinos not only looking after their guests well, but feeding the ecosystem that has been created through gambling in the capital city, shifting the offshore casinos appears to be yet another sustained election promise.