Goa has witnessed a drop by 7 per cent of European tourists this season and the reason is not the cold wave in that continent but the new visa rules of the Government of India.
As per the new rules, no foreigner can stay in India for more than three months. At the end of the visa period, the visitor has to return to his own country and wait for two months before applying for a fresh visa to visit India.
This has discouraged Europeans, particularly the Russians who used to live in the warmer climes of Goa till the winter season in their own country ended. The Europeans are learnt to be opting for Sri Lanka instead where long stays are permitted.
Incidentally, Sri Lanka was a major tourist attraction till the LTTE movement crippled the industry and India and more particularly Goa benefitted from it. Now that the LTTE has been demolished in Sri Lanka, the tourism industry is once again taking off in that country.
Although the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa had taken up this matter with the External Affairs Minister S M Krishna who had promised to review the visa rules, nothing has been done till date.
The peak tourism season is already over and a review of the visa rules will not bring any tangible benefits for this year at least.
Significantly, the new Visa Rules have not impacted the charter arrivals in Goa as 750 charters have already arrived in the State and there are no cancellations.
However, the drop of foreign tourists to Goa has been more than compensated by the increase in domestic tourists who have proved to be better spenders than the Europeans.