Ajit JohnIt’s that time of the year when the tourist is king in Goa, arriving in large numbers from all over the world. This year however, the tourists are not flying in from lands exotic. They are coming from the neighborhood and states slightly afar. Tourists from Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh came in large numbers. Some drove in; others used private bus services or the rail service and yes flew in too. The pleasure of being in Goa was bittersweet. Dealing with the taxi operators was not an experience many would forget very soon. Charging exorbitant rates is a charge thrown at taxi drivers not without basis. John Jacob a Mumbaikar visits Goa to meet with friends who reside in various corners of the state. A businessman who usually plans his Goa visits sometimes at the last minute usually flies down. He said “It makes no sense to pay Rs 4500 for a ticket from Mumbai and then pay more than that travelling across the state to meet friends. The taxi drivers refuse to negotiate and seem to be on a trip all their own”. So, when he came down for the Diwali break, he drove down with his family. He said “It was definitely cheaper to drive around and it was a calmer experience.” This was a sentiment expressed by Timothy Lobo who said he had friends driving in from Bengaluru over the Diwali weekend. Timothy a businessman said it was a calmer experience for everyone. However speaking about the overall taxi experience in Goa, he said “The local radio based cab service has improved considerably. If you can't get a cab just call the helpline and they'll assign you a cab immediately way better. If I pay Rs 400 by normal cab to Calangute then the app based ride costs Rs 230”. He added that during the festive weekend, he noticed a huge increase in rented cars on the road.” They may be the moneyed class but for a large number of people it is the taxis they have to depend on. Parashar Paikhot, Operations Director, of the app based service said business had increased so much that it was now difficult to handle it. He said “We have reduced our rates by Rs 2 from June. There are cars available at the airports. Right now there are no tourists flying in great numbers. Most of them are coming in from Maharashtra and they have used their cars with their families. Earlier we used to have 3000 drops everyday now it has dropped to 800.
New trend: Goans based here opting for app based cab hiresHowever the reason for the spike in demand has been the dramatic increase in the number of Goans using our services. More than 60% of our calls today come from Goans. 60 to 65% are for short trips like from Candolim to Baga which is a distance of approximately 7 km”. Goans he said had to pay nothing more than Rs 650 for a trip from the airport to Panjim. He admitted they faced a lot of intimidation from private taxi operators but that had decreased dramatically. He said “Now hotels are also now using us because they want business. The problem of the badge is now causing problems. We don’t have drivers to handle the business because of this.” Sanjay Kole President of Taxi Association in Morjim said they had no business for eight months and this meant many taxis were not used and had to be serviced if they had to be used. He said “Hotels in Morjim are shut so there is no business, ninety five percent of our taxis are not functioning and it is just five percent that is working. Many have not earned money for so long so rates may be on the higher side perhaps. Till the vaccines come in our business will not improve and we are struggling to earn money.” Serrafin Cotta President Small & Medium Hotels Association said the taxi drivers had not been earning for several months and with cars not used for so long many would be unusable. With many people having come in cars, he said business was tight for the taxi drivers and the few who used their services may have been charged season rates which could be on the higher side. Nilesh Shah President TTAG hoped the government would sort out this problem which had bedeviled the industry for so long. Otherwise, he feared people would not come to Goa. That is a sentiment which has been expressed repeatedly in the past; one can only hope something fruitful comes out in the near future