Goa hosted white-long beach parties in the run up for the New Year celebrations and there was definitely large crowd with revellers flocking at beaches, eatery outlets and party places. The streets were flooded with outstation and rental vehicles indicating people thronged to Goa the peak period too. Unfortunately, the huge presence of tourists, majority of whom were Indians, did not prove a boon for the tourism industry and one of the reasons is the drive-in culture that has off late severely dented the tourism economy.
The State saw unbelievable number of people travelling from neighbouring states in their own vehicles giving almost zero economic activity to the tourism stakeholders. Similarly, buses and vans carrying low-budgeted tourists also contributed only filth and nuisance, once again giving rise to a debate on when will Goa achieve its target to encourage high-end tourists.
While Goa, turning out to be an expensive destination, has also affected arrivals, the entry of low budgeted Indian tourists led to various hotels, guest houses and rooms-to-let running low on occupancy.
“The crowd is less as against our expectation that the footfalls would increase, particularly during the high peak season. Though there are people on the beaches, they don’t contribute much for the economy. The drive-in tourists from neighbouring states have also not contributed to Goa’s tourism economy. The hotels, guest houses and room-to-let accommodations are having very poor response while three-star resorts have managed to attract the crowd by slashing their room rates. The occupancy in four and five star resorts is also not promising,” Hotelier in the coastal Calangute and BJP legislator Michael Lobo said.
Another famed owner of a resort in South Goa Ralph D’Souza voiced similar version while also adding that new comers into this trade faced loss. He, however, opined that cheaper accommodation facilities might have fared well. “We have realised that increase in domestic tourists has reduced and bus loads of people (including those traveling in their private vehicles) entering into Goa have increased. Among the occupancies, the dormitories, one-star and guest houses were not affected in view of low budgeted tourists spending their vacation here, but the mid-segment to five star hotels have recorded at least 25 per cent fall in occupancies,” he claimed. “The hotels with repeated clients managed to pull in people, though satisfactorily; the newly set-up hotels struggled to get bookings. Nearly all accommodation facilities, including reputed hotels, had discounted room tariffs and the new ones sold below the bottom-line,” he added.
Proprietor of guest houses along the beach side at Calangute and Baga Domnick Pereira said they too felt the heat of poor tourist season. “There was crowd but no business. Calangute was empty and bookings were not 100 per cent, unlike previous tourist seasons,” he said and urged government to stop encouraging low budgeted tourists for failing to give revenue to Goa.
In the wake of poor response in the first three months of the tourist season, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) has formed a committee to brainstorm on factors that led to a downfall. Prima facie, escalating air fares, taxi rates and expensive stay in Goa has been listed down as the reasons for a poor response. TTAG President Savio Messias claimed 30 per cent drop in arrivals. “Many hotels had empty rooms, especially the high-end,” he said explaining, “Tourists would not want to spend as the overall cost has gone up. There are also a lot of people staying in non-registered accommodation facilities. There are many portals routing a visitor to non-registered places because there is no tax element. There are also alternate economical choices like hiring a two-wheeler or four-wheeler to move around places rather than facing harassment from taxi operators.” The TTAG, however, he said, condemns illegal business.
The stakeholders claim that while demonetisation played a major role for the drop in domestic tourists, this year had both – Indian and foreign tourists -- opting for other places than Goa.
Giving a review of the business since the onset of the season, D’Souza claimed that tourism in November was average but it saw a plunge in December. The high peak period in December too did not see an impressive response from the visitors. “A small gap between Christmas and the New Year celebrations was earlier filled by Sunburn, but this though the multi-genre music festival was introduced; it did not garner many revellers. Sunburn is a brand and youngsters combine to fill in the gap,” he added. Lobo too echoed the view stating absence of Sunburn affected the large inflow.
Drive-in culture hits economy
Goa is a state which attracts nearly 5 million tourists every year, from India and around the world, most of them in December-January season termed as the peak season among the locals.
But with state hosting the Christmas and New Year celebrations, the tourism stakeholders, especially the restaurant owners, were seen complaining there was no crowd this year to bring them business. They have blamed the rising drive-in culture for their fall in business.
The culture of drive in, which is the latest among the visitors, has severely hit the economy in the coastal state known for its beaches and delicious Goan food.
“There was very less crowd from December 25 to 31 and these were the key days for business. No doubt there were visitors but most of them were low budget tourists who came in came large buses and then later cooked food along the roadside and fields,” said Domnick Pereira a restaurant owner from Calangute.
Also other stakeholders of the tourism industries also complained of fewer crowds at the beaches this year.
Edwin Lobo, who owns a restaurant at Arpora called Salt, said “This year there was very less tourists as compared to last year and the business was not so very good. Also the crowds which came in were low budget tourists”.