BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
We are in early April and it is hot and therefore the time of the year when foreign tourists start leaving the country for cooler climes. April normally signaled the end of the tourist season and this is going to end the first season after the pandemic.
Tourism in Goa moved from the hippie days to charters to Foreign Individual Tourist (FIT) and it has been charter tourism that kindled tourism in Goa and it has been so ever since.
Goa Statistics on Twitter shares this information on the yearly number of charter flights that have touched down in Goa since the 2017-2018. It reads: 2017-2018: 981; 2018-2019: 813; 2019-2020: 625; 2020-2021:0; 2021-2022:42 and 2022-2023:122. Going by these statistics, charter tourism has been on the downslide.
From nowhere to somewhere and there can be no reasons to complain as most in the tourism industry thinks so. Maybe, the tourists we were all expecting to come did not turn up but others did and though maybe not in the numbers expected, they signalled the start of the industry after Covid-19.
The world has still not gotten over the pandemic. Citizens are still cautious because moving out on a holiday involves spending and not many will like to spend to fall sick and worse catch something that is still not fully understood scientifically.
Goa was one of the States of India that opened its doors to tourism when the others were still coming to terms with living life normally. Before the start of flights, domestic tourists kick-started the industry and many chose to work from home in Goa.
Tourism in Goa centred on foreign tourists and going by the response from a majority of stakeholders, it still does. However, as beggars cannot be choosers, the Indian tourist was the best option that all had to adopt and accept.
Tourists from India are not as bad as foreign; the only difference being the latter submerges faster with the ethos of being Goan that leads to the creation of a reciprocal bond between the two and the concept of being part of the family emerges.
Foreign tourists are normally of middle age and above and normally come and keep coming back, to each time discover more of the laid-back attitude of people from Goa and in this discovery, there is a lot of giving from their side too.
Foreign tourists normally like to stay with families; eat food cooked by families; see Goa through the eyes of these families whilst charter tourists like to get the best from the cheapest deals thrown at them.
Indian tourists started discovering Goa after we became known as a destination for foreign tourists and the curiosity saw an increase in the number of tourists but little financial benefits to the locals - the rupee submerged with the pound.
Unlike the foreign middle-aged tourists, the tourists from India are young, most hailing from rich families and wanting to burst into the party scene which was once the domain of foreigners.
Once, parties were full of foreigners with Indians coming to watch them and it has now changed with parties being full of Indians with a few foreigners coming to watch the party curve - Deaths then were rare and are frequent now.
The government of Goa is talking in terms of opening new baskets for tourists in Goa and hinterland tourism is one such area it wants to play with.
If hinterland tourism is for charter tourists, then the infrastructure is yet to be prepared because charter tourism is about luxury buses, clean kitchens and washrooms and we are yet not prepared.
Goa has had various markets, like flea markets that are predominantly designed for charter tourists. Many such markets in Goa did not open this season as the flow was little, as the market was not fully operational.
A lot of business relating to tourism in Goa is today managed by people from out of the State. The tourism industry has literally been taken over with few from Goa holding stakes here and there.
The government wants to build ropeways; has introduced helicopter rides and even a solar-powered ferry service which many were aware of before the inauguration. Tardy ideas when the money does not reach the locals.
Midway through the season, attempts were made to hand over some aspects of the industry to people not connected – like booking water sports slots - which were later cancelled.
The tourism industry in Goa or anywhere in the world never blooms without the core and it is the local people. Goa without a Goan is not Goa and therefore all future planning should be done on this assumption.