Two major global turbulences – the Coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war – have changed the profile of foreign tourists flowing into Goa, along with upending its tourism dynamics.
Six years back – in 2017 – Russians constituted 58 per cent (4.9 lakh) of Goa’s 8.9-lakh international tourist arrivals. This has shrunk to 7.41 per cent (12,626 tourists) of the 1.69-lakh foreigners landing in the state last year.
UK’s tourist inflow trend has a slightly different story to tell. Despite some wimples, the European island nation’s romance with Goa’s sultry beaches continues to stay aflame. Arrivals from UK jumped to 31 per cent (2.9 lakh) of the 9.25-lakh foreign tourists in 2018 from 9.4 per cent (83,978) in the previous year.
From the peak of 2018, UK tourists flying into Goa shows a drop to 14.4 per cent (24,337) of the international tourists in 2022; but a close study of the data reveals that the number of tourists arriving from UK into the state was the highest among all countries. Last year, Goa had the largest number of foreign tourists from UK followed by US and Russia.
The dark horse on Goa’s recent foreign tourist chart is US, which has elbowed out Russia to take UK’s second position with a 11.50 per cent (19,436) share last year. In 2017, US travellers visiting the tiny state were only 1.10 per cent (9,825); their share inched up slowly to 2.7 per cent (25,674) in 2018, 2.82 per cent ((26,472) in 2019, 5.35 per cent (16,072) in 2020 and 9.21 per cent (2,039) in 2021.
Countries like Portugal and Ukraine, on the other hand, are tumbling to lower positions on the chart. The share of tourists from Portugal fell from 5.21 per cent (15,661) of 3-lakh overseas tourists in 2020 to 0.28 per cent (490) last year. In 2021, only three Portuguese tourists arrived in Goa.
After climbing to 5.06 per cent (46,826) in 2018, Ukraine’s share in Goa’s foreign tourist arrivals has shrivelled to just 0.46 per cent (794) in 2022. Tourist inflows into the state from many European countries like Denmark, Austria, Holland, Ireland and Norway have still to resume after Goa’s tourism was hit hard by the two severe global disasters.
Overall, the number of foreign tourists arriving into the state continues to remain subdued. In 2022, overseas tourist inflow was just 18 per cent of the peak international tourist number of 9.37 lakh in 2019. In 2021, it slumped 97.6 per cent (down by 9.15 lakh) with just 22,128 overseas tourists arriving into the state.
The vacuum created by lower number of international tourists coming to Goa since 2019 was filled up, to some extent, by domestic tourists, whose share moved up to 99 per cent (33.08 lakh) of the 33.30 lakh tourists in 2021. The share of foreign tourists in the total number of tourists visiting Goa hit the rock bottom at 0.6 per cent in the same year. In 2017, the break-up of domestic and overseas tourists was 88 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
The trends are gradually returning to normal with the share of foreign tourists climbing to 2.3 per cent and that of domestic tourists crawling down to 97 per cent last year. In the same year, the number tourists arriving into the state at 71.87 lakh also moved closer to pre-calamity (before 2020) days of over 80.64 lakh.
This year, as per Goa’s Department of Tourism data – for the period between January and May, 2023 – the numbers look robust. The share of foreign tourists has already moved up to 5.4 per cent (2.16 lakh) even as the number of international tourists swelled to 3.83 lakh in the first half of the year. Tourists from other Indian states accounted for 94 per cent (36.15 lakh).
And, it may not be long before the wild swings in the ‘country-wise’ tourist graphs stabilise. Even as that happens, it may not be the Russians, who may flock to the coastal state, but they could be the (Indian) Americans and the (Indian) Britishers.