The first foreign charter of the season landed in Goa on October 1 bringing Russian tourists with more expected in the weeks ahead but locals in Morjim and Mandrem, the favourite haunt of the visitors, prefer to wait and watch before lacing their expectations with optimism.
“It is too early to say anything. The season in Morjim normally picks up at the end of October. A few Russians arrived on Sunday but it is just a trickle that only tickles,” said Yogesh, a local, as he supervised work on his home stay in Morjim.
Despite the government emphasis on improvement in infrastructure, the roads leading to Morjim and the internal ones are in urgent need of attention. Late showers added to the discomfort but did not dampen the spirit of a Russian family that arrived on Sunday.
“Goa is nice. I am not good in English but I come to India because we need to take a holiday. We like the place and have no problem so far,” Sergei, who walked from the market to the beach along with his wife and kids, said.
The locals too welcome the tourists. “The Russians may not spend much but they help us make money for our living. Like most foreign tourists, they are polite and hardly trouble us. It is the youngsters who can be loud at times,” said Sangeeta who manages a liquor shop.
For Sena and her two kids, the beach is the perfect place to be at as, “it has started to get cold in Russia.” And, like many Russians who arrived on the first Aeroflot flight to Goa on Sunday, she too is using the Google translator to communicate with the locals.
“Most of the tourists who arrived on the first flight are staying either in Morjim or Ashvem. It is the preferred destination of Russians,” a travel agent who had passengers on the flight told Gomantak Times Digital.
“Most five-star hotels prefer to cater to events like weddings and conferences. It is more profitable for them and their room tariffs are pretty high for Russian tourists visiting Goa,” stated another travel agent on condition of anonymity.
As many Goans were busy readying their establishments to welcome the new season, Russians already operating a restaurant on Morjim were upbeat about the arrival of their fellow countrymen.
“We have been running this restaurant for quite a while now and our place is open to all clients, that is why our menu is in Russian and English,” observed Anton, who also claimed that delivery is organised – ata cost – upto Siolim and Arambol.
“We had a lot of Indians working from here during the pandemic and many have decided to stay back and work from here or prefer to return for their holidays and that is why we had a lot of them during the monsoons,” admitted Clifford who rents out motorcycles.
“It would have been nice if our roads were done up as their condition is bad and the rains have made them even worse. I hope the government pays attention to road work on priority to reduce the risk of accidents,” he added.
Morjim and Ashvem are coastal villages that opened up late for tourism but today are amongst the first to attract tourists from Russia for whom Goa is a new destination.