But over the past few years, heavy taxation brought about by GST, expensive tariffs, and poor planning are beginning to dampen foreigners’ enthusiasm for Goa.
With Phuket, Colombo, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Turkey, and Vietnam wooing international travellers including Indians, Goa has to contend with formidable competition. The delay in processing e-visas and the sanctions imposed by the West provide yet another compelling reason for Russians to fly to other destinations. In normal circumstances, Goa receives the highest number of Russian tourists.
“We cannot say that Goa is the first choice today,” said Travel & Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) president Nilesh Shah. “We are facing competition from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam which offer great value.”
Places like Vietnam, Cambodia are more competitive: TTAG
Though Shah remains positive about this year’s tourism season, he does expect the Ukraine-Russia conflict to weigh down the holiday sentiment.
“Foreign tourists are now looking at emerging destinations such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Thailand,” Shah said. “They have similar things to offer and pricing-wise they are more competitive.”
Thailand and Indonesia provide visas on arrival, while Vietnam allows Russians and UK citizens to stay for 15 days without any visa, Shah said. “On the other hand, Western sanctions following the war with Ukraine prevent Russian travellers from paying India’s e-visa fees in USD and the tourist visa process takes several days,” he said. “We are quite positive, but the movement from Russia is slow.”
A former president of TTAG said, “We have seen charters moving away and I don’t expect the charter arrivals to rise significantly this season. We need to give some incentives.”
The UK and Russia are the two countries from which Goa receives the maximum number of tourists. Travel cost to Goa from the UK and Russia compares poorly with the travel cost to Bangkok, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Goa has 8,840 registered hotel rooms with at least a thousand more rooms available through unregistered guesthouses, homestays, and lodges. This number is hardly sufficient to meet the demand created by about 90 lakh tourists who flock to the state. In December, the peak tourist season, prices of everything from hotels and flights to food and taxis skyrocket.
For the price-conscious traveller, the higher tariffs can prove to be a deterrent, particularly when travel to Bangkok and Sri Lanka is cheaper and easier.
“Goa is one of the least value-for-money destinations in India. Even though friends and my wife keep pushing me to pick Goa, I prefer flying to Thailand or other Southeast Asian countries and it still turns out to be nearly the same cost and a much better experience,” said a British traveller.
Charter flights, the traditional mainstay of Goa tourism, have been wobbling since 2017. From an all-time high of 1,128 charter flights in 2013-14, the number fell to 813 in 2018-19 and is likely to remain on the lower side in this current season. During the pandemic, international charter flights were not permitted.