Even the tourism industry is anticipating an increase in arrivals to Goa this year, the government unfortunately is found sleeping in providing basic necessities that the visitors need in terms of cleanliness and peace and tranquility.
Travel and Tourism Association of Goa has officially stated that the main charter from Sceandinavia has withdrawn from Goa this year because of the garbage and litter found on the beaches. TTAG spokesperson Ralph de Souza pointed out that this particular charter has withdrawn after continuously bringing tourists for the last eight years.
Although the government’s introduction of Drishti for beach safety earned it laurels amongst the visitors, its failure to maintain cleanliness on the beaches has deterred the visitors. The tourism industry is waiting for the promised mechanical cleaning of beaches to start at least during this season even though they believe that this will be a temporary solution and the only solution to the garbage problem lies in setting up garbage processing plants.
Besides, foreigners relaxing on the beaches are also harassed by hawkers most of whom are lamanis and the government has totally failed to check this menace. In fact, sources in the trade disclosed that the lamanis bribe the police and other officials in order to have a free run of the beaches where besides hawking trinkets, they are also known to indulge in the flesh trade.
In fact, beggars, hawkers and even masseurs from outside Goa arrived last week even before the first charter flight with tourists touched down at Dabolim. Ralph lamented that the government has not acted on their various petitions to keep the beaches free of hawkers. “On the contrary, the number of hawkers on the beaches increases every year,” he said.
The Charter tourists are expected to increase this year given the fact that 718 chartered flights have already confirmed their arrival this year as against the 626 that landed during the last season.
Pegas Touristik, the tour operator from Russia which had brought 1,000 tourists last year in 10 days has promised to bring 2,000 tourists this year. Besides, Holland returning to Goa after three years and Poland commencing operations here, there is cheer in the industry.
However, TTAG stressed the need to target Free Independent Travellers who are also the high spenders. As Goa is directly connected to at least 20 European and five North American cities through international airlines like Qatar Airways, these markets particularly in cities like Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Brussels need to be exploited and the FIT be encouraged to travel to Goa for their holidays, said Ralph de Souza.
The only impediment to foreign tourists coming to Goa is the changed immigration laws whereby long term Visas are not longer being issued to them. Visitors can at the most live in the country for three months and then have to exit and are permitted to return only after a gap of two months.
“This does not augur well as by that time the winter season in those countries are over and they would like to spend their entire winter in Goa where the climate is comfortably warm during that period,” said Ralph de Souza,
He said the multiple entry Visa that was issued earlier was a boon to the tourism sector.
Ironically, even though the Government of India introducing Visas on arrival for countries like Japan, Finland, Luxemburg, New Zealand and Singapore, it does not really benefit Goa as these Visas are not stamped here and the travelers have to enter Goa through some other international airport.