Winds of change blew away foreign tourists from Goa’s shore

Goa’s tourism has taken a 180-degree turn from being dominated by foreign tourists to now ruled by domestic travellers
GONE WITH THE WIND: Since the turn of the century, foreign tourist inflows into Goa have whittled  down to around five per cent from over 50 per cent.
GONE WITH THE WIND: Since the turn of the century, foreign tourist inflows into Goa have whittled down to around five per cent from over 50 per cent. Photo: Pixabay

That summer morning, the blackest raven visited with a message in its claw; “the windows of the world will close”. And it did. Rulers around the globe ordered lockdown as the worse pandemic of our times swept through every country.

Outside the closed windows, gusty winds of change blew.  It was re-arranging the order of the day everywhere. In Goa, it was furiously whipping tourism into a new shape. The funereal calmness around the State had rattled the tourism authorities.

Outside the closed windows, gusty winds of change blew.  It was re-arranging the order of the day everywhere.

Visa restrictions by overseas nations had curtailed tourist movements across countries and hit Goa’s tourism hard. The coastal State had only recently taken a blow from the shutting down of iron ore mines following a Supreme Court order cancelling 88 mining leases. All this was turning its earnings flow from the foreign exchange (forex) tap to a trickle.

The threat of the State government’s coffers running dry was looming large. The government had to act fast. It had to wean away domestic tourists from other Indian holiday destinations. For long, Goa had revelled in its haughtiness of primarily hosting foreign tourists and big Indian spenders. It could not afford to be choosy anymore.

GONE WITH THE WIND: Since the turn of the century, foreign tourist inflows into Goa have whittled  down to around five per cent from over 50 per cent.
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It punched on the ‘change’ button in the midst of the pandemic, and transformed the DNA of its tourism. It went all-out to host domestic tourists.

Everything was geared to appease the Indian tourists’ sensibility. And so, at restaurants and bars, singers, instead of belting out Beatles, ABBA, Elvis Presley or other Western hits from the 60s, 70, 80s and 90s, started singing Bollywood hits.

Thalis, south India and other Indian cuisines were available at every corner even as eating places catering to Western tourists had started to dwindle. .

DISTANT BEATS: Goa's tourism drumbeats are failing to reach foreign shores and drawing desired international tourist inflows.
DISTANT BEATS: Goa's tourism drumbeats are failing to reach foreign shores and drawing desired international tourist inflows. Photo: Pixabay

One thing remained constant – Goa’s night life and party scene. That could not be altered in the State’s tourism DNA. The tag of the ‘party capital of India’ continued to stick to the tiny State. These swift moves sustained Goa’s tourism

Then, one spring morning, the little sparrow visited with a message in its claw, “the windows of world will open”. And it did. Rulers around the globe lifted the lockdown as the pandemic receded and passed into oblivion. 

One thing remained constant – Goa’s night life and party scene. That could not be altered in the State’s tourism DNA.

Outside the open windows, the vistas had changed. Goa’s sultry arcadian charm had been overthrown by aggressive yuppie culture, brought in by migrants and facilitated by bourgeois locals. Its ‘susegad’ was sneered at.

And foreign tourists?  By now, they had practically disappeared – their numbers had thinned to an insignificant level. This was in contrast to the times when they used to outnumber domestic tourists.  By 2015, their share in the State’s tourist inflow had already tumbled to less than 50 per cent.

GONE WITH THE WIND: Since the turn of the century, foreign tourist inflows into Goa have whittled  down to around five per cent from over 50 per cent.
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As per the tourism department data, in 2017, even though overseas tourist numbers grew, they constituted just 11 per cent of the total incoming tourists into Goa. This was because the growth in the incoming domestic tourists had picked up pace. 

Pandemic had precipitated the decline in the share of overseas tourists in the total tourist traffic into Goa. It dropped to 10 per cent in 2020. The next year, as world remained locked down, it’s share slumped to just 0.66 per cent.

Pandemic precipitated the decline in the share of overseas tourists in the total tourist traffic into Goa. It dropped to 10 per cent in 2020. The next year, as world remained locked down, it’s share slumped to just 0.66 per cent.

In 2022, it recovered to 2.35 per cent and further grew to 5.24 per cent in 2023. In the current year, till April, 4.11 per cent of total tourists arriving into the State were foreigners. Interestingly, a lot of these foreign tourists are NRIs or overseas citizens of Indian origin.

There are several factors responsible for the fall in the number of foreign tourists arriving into Goa. One of them is geo-political. The two wars – Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Palestine – have kept the Russian and the Israelis, who were a major part of foreign tourists, off the Goan shores.

GONE WITH THE WIND: Since the turn of the century, foreign tourist inflows into Goa have whittled  down to around five per cent from over 50 per cent.
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The other reason has to do with economics. In the past, Goa’s tourism was mostly driven by tourists from UK and Europe, who would fly in on charter flights. Today, these countries are not in the best of economic health. This has financially constrained the budget travellers, who would unfailingly make their annual trip to Goa in winters.

On the other hand, disposable income of Indians has been rising in recent years, boosting their travel spends. Thus, the dynamics of Goa’s tourism have completely altered. As it softly beats its tourism drums, domestic tourists enter its portal in hordes. But, alas, the sound of its drumbeats fails to reach the overseas tourists and draw them in desired numbers.     

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