These figures do not lie. They have a stark tale of truth to tell. In the first two months of the tourism season, Goa has seen a 55 per cent drop in charter arrivals, and the expected landings for the peak month of December are also way below the figure of December 2017. If November and December, the two months that bring in the highest number of charter flights to Goa are showing such poor figures, there is little hope that the following months of the season will see any vast improvement. The industry is not hopeful, and the fear is that Goa might register a low in charter arrivals.
The drop in charter arrivals was not entirely unforeseen. Travel and Tourism Association of Goa had predicted that there would be a decline by about 30 per cent which is worrying, but this drop has been almost double of what had been expected. There had been a marginal fall last season, but the lowest it has been in recent years, was in 2015-16 when just 798 charter flights landed at Dabolim airport. A rather disquieting trend is that Russia, that in the past years had shown a growth in charter tourists and been the backbone of the charter tourism, has itself taken a hit this season.
It is time to once again question what has been the outcome of the promotional tours that government delegations undertake at the exchequer’s cost to foreign countries. The department has to explain to the people why it flies to certain destinations despite the fact that Goa does not figure as a destination for citizens of these countries. What has been the quantitative outcome from tourism shows in USA, Australia, Germany, Finland? USA for instance is a favourite of Goa Tourism, but Goa has never been favoured by the American tourist. The annual tourist arrivals from USA from 2012 to 2014 have stood at 1.9 per cent, the opposition had claimed earlier this year, questioning another trip to the United States. And though delegations have unfailingly been making it to the Berlin Travel Mart for the past three decades, no charter flights have originated from Germany for the past four seasons.
The State has to wake up and face the fact that its marketing strategy has failed in the international market, that it desperately needs to pull up its socks and get out there telling the world, nay convincing the world, why Goa is the best place to visit. There is no time to lose, and it has to prepare for the forthcoming season now. And for that, as suggested by TTAG, the marketing should not be left to government delegations made up of politicians and bureaucrats, but handed over to marketing professionals who should be held accountable at the end of the season, if there are no results from the trips and the money spent.
Tourism is a fickle industry, dependent almost entirely on perceptions, that can change the course of the industry rapidly. The 2017-18 tourism season ended with hardly any change being seen in the international markets for Goa Tourism. The start of the new season has shown no improvement. If Goa fails in reversing the trend, then like it has seen the fall in mining, the tourism industry too may plunge into uncertainty. The State Tourism Master Plan under preparation and already quite contentious due to some of its proposals, has to address this current situation and suggest means of how to bring the foreign tourists back to the State. Whether it be charter tourists of the FITs (free of itinerary tourists), Goa has to get them all.