06 Dec 2023  |   04:55am IST

Not an easy time for them

The restaurateurs in the state are facing a tough time due to the absence of international tourists due to the war in Ukraine and other factors in Goa
Not an easy time for them

Ajit John

It is December, the season to be jolly. The time to party and relax after a hard year that had to be endured. But for restaurateurs in Goa, it is a very tough time to be in business. Various factors are at play making it tough to be in the business in the state. Several restaurateurs spoke about their experiences this season.

Francis from a restaurant in Vagator said the cost of travelling across the state was prohibitive. He said the absence of services like Ola and Uber in the State was felt by tourists who came over. The taxi drivers in Goa he said would decide a rate on the spot and that was that. It was also difficult to get transport at night. He said this was his first season in Goa. He said the season has been poor so far. With the number of foreign tourists having dropped dramatically, he said everyone was depending on the domestic tourist. But he said the domestic tourists would come only during the weekend. The average bill for two he said was anywhere between Rs 1200-1500 which would include alcohol. Foreigners, he said, spend much more. Then there was the policy of banning music at 10 o'clock which was a problem. People, he said, came to enjoy the music but now there was nothing. Karaoke was not allowed and restaurant music was also banned. All these factors were contributing to tough times being faced by those in the business.

The war in Ukraine and the emergence of new places were causing problems for the business. Debajyoti Sanyal who has a restaurant in Saligao said business was poor. He went on to say that the kind of clientele before Covid was different. The charter flights he said were not coming that much. The war in Ukraine he said had made a mark on the movement of tourists from the target areas. The maximum movement he said was domestic. The emergence of new tourist places like Udupi, Mangalore, Karwar and Honnavur was not helping Goa’s case, he said. The exorbitant prices charged by hotels and the cost of travel within the state he said was expensive. The presence of several standalone restaurants which were cheaper added to the pressure on restaurants.. Now he said people also had the option of travelling to places like Vietnam and Singapore which was either the same in terms of cost and on occasions even cheaper. In the neighbourhood there was Sri Lanka which was beautiful. Goa, he said, had way too much competition. Then the prices charged by the taxi’s in Goa he said did not help matters. It was, he said, not uncommon to hear that people had paid Rs 2000 for a trip from Calangute to Porvorim. All this he said was a threat to tourists on a tight budget.

For hotelier Eldrin Fernandes who runs a restaurant in Candolim said, “ Business had certainly dropped when compared to the last two years. I feel the taxi service was a problem. The facilities for transportation are so much better in other places in the country. Footfalls have dropped to Goa. Then the presence of so many restaurants meant there were now many options”. Many restaurants he said were opening and shutting. The State he said had to improvise on its offers. They have to be tourist friendly. Russians, he pointed out, could not use cards because of the war and the resultant strictures laid down by western countries. He said the Goan tourist trade needed to find a way to help them. Even those countries supporting Russia he said were not able to use cards. The number of Russians coming over had dropped dramatically and it was tough for them. The trade he said had to think on its feet to survive in these tough times.

The cost of holidaying in Goa has increased over the years. Christy of Stone House Restaurant said many Europeans who were used to coming to Goa now found it expensive. Many of them were now comparing costs with other locations and had shifted to cheaper places. Then there was the issue of taxis where people were being charged Rs 800 for less than a km. the culture of taking advantage Christy said had taken hold. This was affecting business.

For a restaurant that is in its first season, Anastazia from a restaurant in Candolim said when they started in February, they were getting a lot of business from foreigners. Now in this season, it was basically Indian tourists that were providing them business. She said occasionally they were full on weekends but business she felt could have been much better.

The absence of a good transport system and the inability to play music after ten had hit business according to DJ Andrew who owned restaurants. He said in Baga, there was a huge drop in business because of these problems. He agreed that the music could cause problems for people around but felt it could be allowed till 11 or latest 12. He said the industry had to adjust to realities.

Perhaps the bluntest statement came from Michael Carrasco from Mapusa who said he was in the business for twenty years and this was the worst he had ever experienced. He said,” The season is very poor, no one is coming. People who are here are not spending money and on weekends no one comes”.

This seems to be the roughest season for restaurateurs in the State and one can only hope they manage and find their way.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar