There are more beach beds than tourists on the Ashvem-Mandrem-Morjim beach belt, in North Goa, and shack operators rue that there may be a premature end to the tourism season this year.
Tourists start trickling into this belt from October onwards, and when the footfalls are healthy, the season stretches upto May. But this year, the narrative is not very good and the month of January itself resembles the end of the season.
If one takes a walk on this coastline, the declining number of tourists is evident and those earning a livelihood from shack activity are concerned.
"It is noon, and right now, I have just one customer sitting in my shack," says George Britto, who runs the Inspiration beach shack on Mandrem beach.
Britto, who has been in the shack business for 24 years, adds, "Compared to last January, business is completely down this year. It is January and there are neither Russians nor British tourists. Also, we lost two months of business at the start because the government delayed in giving us licenses."
Foreign tourists visiting the beaches here have already turned their backs on Goa, but the same story goes with domestic tourists who just come for the weekend in their own vehicles.
They stay in a hotel for two or three days and then leave. On other days, the number of tourists is negligible, say many of the operators from this belt.
This situation can be well summarised in the words of Arun Shetgaonkar from Ashvem, "I have been tallying my business with every single day of last January because I always keep a record of income I make on a daily basis. Compared to January 2023, this year there is hardly any business. On New Year's day too, we closed at 11 pm, which is considered early."
Whatever little business the operators get is on the weekend, and, that too, can't be compared to what they used to get before Covid struck.
Says a shack operator from Morjim, on condition of anonymity, "Last January at my shack, I used to have 50 to 60 customers at any given time; this year, it is just 10 to 20. The business is just okay on Saturday-Sunday. We have some Indians and Russians coming in, that's all."
Many shack operators feel they would have been a little better off had the government hastened the licensing and shack allotment process as the operators would have made up for the losses that they are suffering in January.
Coupled with this, the beaches of Goa -- that are being sullied by open drinking, unruly tourists and litter -- are keeping tourists away, and many are looking for cheaper options in Southeast Asia as they find Goa too expensive.