Tourism it is said, has become the mainstay of Goan economy and truly so as a large number of people depend upon it for their livelihood. However, just about two decades ago, Goans were agitating against tourism and more particularly the charter tourists.
In fact, when the first Charter flight from Germany landed at Dabolim airport, it was greeted with slogan shouting crowd that even flung cow dung on the visitors. Protestors against charter tourism warned of all kinds of evils descending upon Goa with these visitors.
Though some of their predictions have come true in the sense HIV infections, drug trade, prostitution and other evils have taken roots in Goa, charter tourism has brought a lot of good along with it particularly in improving the earning capacity of the simple and susegad Goan.
Today, Goa’s tourism is heavily dependent upon the charters and any increase in their arrival is a reason to cheer. The government of Goa goes out of its way to woo charter tour operators and have taken a big leap this year to organize the International Tourism Mart, in Goa itself.
Director of Tourism Swapnil Naik projects a 15 per cent increase in Charter arrivals during this season primarily because of keen interest in Russia and its neighbouring countries that were part of the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.
Around 500 charter flights descend upon Goa during the season and with the Dabolim airport thrown open for night operations, most of these flights arrive between 11 pm to 7 am. This incidentally, is the best time for the charters as there are no normal passenger flights arriving at that time and even the Naval operations are minimal.
This year’s tourism season is going to be kicked off with the charter flight ‘Arke Fly’ from Netherlands bringing around 150 passengers to Goa. While initially it will be a little sluggish, charter arrivals are expected to pick up from 15th October.
Russians, with their new found money are amongst the largest visitors to Goa and in fact kept the tourism industry afloat in Goa during the years of recession when arrivals from European countries dipped.
This year many of the other countries that were earlier part of USSR have shown interest in Goa with Kazakisthan booking some charters. However, though the Russians would like to spend their entire winter in Goa given the warmer climate here, they can at the most live here for only one month as that is the period for which they are issued visas.