Ajit John FOOD
The Christmas and New Year celebrations are now behind us. The crowds that congregate on the beaches and the hotels are in the process of going back home. The general feeling is that the numbers have not been what they should have been like in the years gone by. The number of foreigners has reduced due to the war in Ukraine and in Palestine. The cost of internal travel in Goa has not helped the tourism trade. In all it has been a less than spectacular season for tourism. However there has been a segment of the tourism industry which is doing quite well. Travel organisations focused on providing an experience have done very well.
In Goa there are a few experiential travel companies that are offering thoughtfully designed and thought provoking tours. Parag Rangnekar of Nature Trials said business has been quite good. He said in fact he had to let go of a few guests yesterday. He said many people want to escape from the noise and the hullabaloo. They wanted to celebrate the New Year in a peaceful manner. They wanted to do it while bird watching and exploring nature or at a homestay in Tambdi Surla. People, he said, could even go on a jungle trail and look at the stars while staying in a tent. He said a large number of his clients were domestic tourists from the various metropolises of the country. He also said there were quite a few people from Goa who had settled here and wanted to learn more about the State. The clientele would usually be between 30 and above, he said. The general cost would be around Rs 2000 per person per day which would include stay and meals. Activities would be charged extra. For example, anyone interested in bird watching would have to pay extra for half a day or full day. He said each activity would cost anywhere between Rs 800-1500. He said they were full and there was business right through the year. Now he said there were a lot of birdwatchers but during the monsoons there would be a different crowd. Those who were interested in macro stuff. He said it all depended on what the guests wanted, accordingly they would customise and prepare something for them.
Varun Hegde of Soul Travelling is another company that operates in the same space. He said business was good this year when compared to last year. He said some people in the business said there was a reduction this year but he had not experienced it. He said his company was focused on providing experiences around villages, food and architecture to name a few. He said they would explore villages for four hours and the visitors would know everything about that place. Every village he said had something unique about it and the visitors would learn about it. This time he said visitors learned how Goans celebrate Christmas. He said his company worked with homestays. They do a lot of work with corporates and other big groups. He said the majority of his business came from clientele in the 35-50 age category. He said 70 percent of his business came from the domestic market while the rest was international. The whole year he said business was very good with December being great. There were around 6 to 7 daily tours to different parts of Goa in December. People he said were now interested in going off the beaten track. They were not interested in going to beaches like other people.
Goa is the number one place in India when it comes to experiential tourism according to Maria Victor of Make it Happen. She said the narrative about Goa was changing and it was no longer about beaches and parties. People, she said, were not talking about beaches. During the Christmas week she said business had doubled. She said on an average the revenue earned was around Rs 1000 per person. For food trails it was around Rs 2500 to Rs 3000 per person. This was she said new age tourism and its impact was larger. There she said 100 percent year on year growth. She said in Panjim itself they had 5 different walks. There was Feni and tapas, culinary, art and heritage experiences in Panjim. In the south they had a walk in Chandor and a Margao food trail. These walks she said had a mix of domestic and international tourists. These were people who wanted to plan the holiday themselves. All the bookings were largely online though at monuments, walk-ins would not be turned away. Tourism she said was about people and culture then it was different.
The President of TTAG, Nilesh Shah said the new generation meaning millennial’s preferred experiential tourism. He said there were a few companies in Goa who had curated these experiences very well. The people who used their services had talked very positively about them and this was certainly helping business. The opportunity for employment of locals who were proficient in the subjects that was the area of focus of these companies. Many youngsters he said were making good money doing an excellent job. Nilesh said otherwise in the overall business, the inflow of tourists had reduced. The international tourists were down because they were not coming in from Russia and Israel. With regards to the domestic tourists he said there was a sense of fatigue with people having visited the State on numerous occasions in the past. The star hotels, he said, had done well but people were living in homestays, guesthouses and that was a problem. He however predicted that business would be good in January with the wedding season scheduled to start from January 15 and heavy mice movement.
The tourism business in Goa is in an interesting place. One needs to see if this trend will grow and become the norm in the State in the future.