Tourism in Goa is on a surge with the footfall of foreign tourists increasing multifold from today with one charter from Russia arriving daily. Each charter is carrying over two hundred passengers compared to the existing charters from the United Kingdom and Kazakhstan, and foreign individual tourists (FITs) visiting Goa.
“We have had around 258 passengers in the flights that have landed in Goa, and with the Russian charters landing daily from today, we can easily say that tourism is back to see the pre-Covid days,” says Ernest Dias, COO of Sita Travels, unable to conceal his enthusiasm.
“We first started with charters from Kazakhstan and then had three Aeroflot charters a week from Russia as well as two weekly charters from the United Kingdom. This is just the beginning,” predicts Ernest.
Tourists arriving through charters predominantly stayed in five-star or four-star hotels in the past, but the trend is changing now with travel agencies booking guest houses for their clients.
“The quality of clients has improved with guests opting to stay in bungalows and five-star deluxe hotels now. We are seeing a mix of clients at the moment. The good thing is that the fear of going out on holidays has disappeared and people have begun to splurge on their vacations,” believes Ernest.
The southern belt is not witnessing as many tourists as the northern with 65 per cent of tourists preferring to stay in the north and the remaining in the south. “Clients prefer to stay in the north because there is more of a choice of restaurants and there is plenty of nightlife,” claims Ernest, who foresees the quieter clients choosing to come later through the season.
“Tourists have started to come to my shop, but the increase in sales is not manifold because there is a limitation on the weight they can carry on the plane. So, we have a tourist who will come and pick up four or five pouches of hundred grams of tea or coffee to take back home to gift someone. That’s not much business,” says an employee of a prominent shop selling tea and coffee.
“Our local clients are our backbone. The demand for tea and coffee is much higher among our people. Tea is picked up from us as souvenirs. Our local consumption of tea and coffee is much higher,” adds the employee.
“Tourists complain of weight restrictions, especially those coming by charters, as they claim they can carry a maximum of twenty kilos. There are other ancillary units linked to tourism that stand to benefit a lot when the tourism industry blooms,” surmised the employee of the shop based in Mapusa.
“Russians are around everywhere. They were here before the pandemic, and we are happy that they are back. They like to party till early morning in the houses they stay in, and they hire our bikes to travel around. Some have problems understanding English, but they normally come in groups with one or two members understanding the local customs,” says Ajit with a smile writ large on his face as he hands over the keys of a bike he has hired out to a Russian.
“We rent out bikes from Rs 200 to Rs 300 a day. We have not changed the prices from what we were charging before the pandemic because we are still not certain how the season will turn out for us. That’s why we are being cautious now,” confesses Ajit.
Hundreds of motorcycles can be seen driving on the road from Siolim to Mapusa by foreigners in short-sleeved shirts and shorts, all wearing helmets and many with females as pillion riders. Along the way, traffic policemen can be seen stopping those without helmets.
“We brief the tourists about the safety guidelines they need to follow and provide them with helmets. There is nothing I can do if a tourist does not want to wear a helmet,” says Santan, as he tries to explain the rules to a first-time tourist from Kazakhstan.
“My son, wife and I have come to Mapusa to do some shopping as we are leaving tomorrow. It is very nice and hot here in Goa. The beaches are beautiful, and the waters are cool and nice to swim in,” states Rund, as he tries to sum up his stay in Goa.
“Ummph… the food is not bad. It’s just that we are not used to this type of food. But we have no reason to complain as we had a variety to choose from. When there is spaghetti and cheese, there is no problem,” says Rund with a mischievous smile.