There was a brief period during which foreign tourists, faced with issues in obtaining a visa, were finding it difficult to come to Goa. Now that the problem has been resolved, travel agents are finding it hard to market the place that was once known for its beaches and relaxed living.
“The visa regime was hostile last year. Customers lost tickets because they could not get visas before departure. Now that things have normalised, it is difficult to sell the place because it is no more the place of sun, sand and sea. It is noisy and full,” said a foreign travel agent on condition of anonymity.
“In England, customers had to go to the Indian consulate; in Frankfurt, the consulate outsourced the work and it became costlier and slow. As it is, people have apprehensions coming to India,” mentioned a representative from a British company.
If getting a visa was a major hurdle last season, then this season travel agents are finding it hard to explain the disparity in visas issued to people from UK and other European countries.
“The English get a one-year e-visa and can stay for six months, whilst a German or French will need to leave after three months. Are the English allowed to stay because they have a Prime Minister of Indian origin,” asks a bemused German as he moans missing Kings Beer. “What is the use of a one-year e-visa?” he asks.
“Initially, it gave us the impression that India does not want foreigners in the country but after reaching Goa and meeting our colleagues and friends, the reality is different,” reassures a representative who has been coming to Goa since 1996.
“It is difficult to get charters from Germany because it is now difficult to sell Goa. Before, we used to sell it as the land of tranquility. You know how the place has changed so we need something else to sell and there is nothing,” says a lady from England who feels claustrophobic, away from the beach.
English tourists seated at a restaurant in Baga describe Goa then and now through a simple analogy: You have foreigners and Indians going to the beach in the morning. Why it is that Indians leave their dirt behind?
The government needs to spend more on marketing and not just Goa but India, for according to representatives Gomantak Times Digital spoke to, India still has its old charm but Goa has been robbed of its charm by Indians.
“It is become a disaster selling Goa after the Indian tourists started coming because there is too much of noise on the beach and on the road. There is neither the peace nor the tranquility that most guests used to come to Goa for,” says one in a tone of dismay.
“It is going to be difficult to start charters from Germany and difficult for Germans to opt for Goa as the flights are long. Those who are in Goa have already moved to the South,” discloses a representative handling a German portfolio.
“I expect a slight increase in the number of English clients for the forthcoming season since the visa regime is relaxed and the English and Goans have something in common – bon vivre,” admits the representative handling British clients.
All representatives are sure that the next season will neither see an increase in clients nor a decrease. “The government should be clear on what it wants. You cannot have both in such a small and beautiful place,” contended a representative.