By Praveen Kumar for IndyaWire.com | 26th August 2015
They (Goans) do not want us in Goa, We are not welcome in Goa anymore, I don’t want to go to Goa again, I love Goa, but Goa does not love me – These are some of the several responses we got from former Russian tourists who had visited Goa over the last 3-4 years. IndyaWire.com conducted a social media survey on Facebook, VK (VKontakte) and other social media sites over the last two weeks.
Doublespeak and negative utterances by Goan politicians like this one (Read Here), unfriendly taxi and tourist taxi operators, uncooperative Goa police, robberies, language barrier, non-availability of trained Russian guides or Russian-speaking guides, increasing cost of hotel, accommodation rentals in Goa, over-crowded beaches, lecherous male tourists from other parts of India, lack of privacy for women, very expensive beach-side restaurants, are the reasons why 42 per cent of Russian tourists who visited Goa at least once over the last 3-4 years do not want to come back. To add to this, charter flights have become more expensive, thanks to the Govt of India’s decision to hike the security deposits and cancellation fees for charter aircraft.
According to journalist Flynn Remedios who co-ordinated the IndyaWire.com Social Media survey on Russian Tourists to Goa, “We got about 2884 responses over two weeks. Out of the 2884 responses, about ten per cent of respondents had never visited Goa as yet, so were disqualified. Out of the remaining respondents, about 42 per cent Russians who have visited Goa at least once in the last 4 years, said they did not want to come back to Goa again. Of course financial restrains is the main reason – Goa has become too expensive for the common man in Russia. Youngsters and college students from Russia, just cannot afford Goa any more.”
Several charter operators who ferry Russian tourists to Goa also agree that the demand has not picked up. According to a Business Standard report, a weak rouble led to a severe drop in Russian visitors to Goa last season and the state’s travel companies fear arrivals could decline this year too with the Airport Authority of India (AAI) hiking the deposit amount it collects from charter companies.
In 2013-14, Goa airport handled 1141 charter flight movements and that number declined to 889 during last season till May 2015. The AAI collects a deposit from charter companies while granting them arrival and departure slots and for this year season the authority has revised the deposit structure leading to protests from local tour operators.
Till last winter the authority charged Rs two lakh security deposit per slot for the entire season but it changed the deposit structure and now it is based on number of flight movements planned in season. Charter companies have to pay a minimum of Rs 25 lakh for upto 25 movements and a Rs one crore for more than 75 movements.
Further for every cancellation or non utilization of slot company has to pay a penalty of Rs one lakh adjustable against the deposit. “We have received the request from charter companies and we are discussing the issue with them,” said Goa airport director K S Rao.
“Is the Indian government trying to promote tourism or discourage it? Russian charter operator Nordwind has requested permission to operate only 36 flights to Goa while last year it flew over 250 flights. Monarch Airlines from UK is not flying to Goa this year. The increase in deposits has increased costs for these companies and now they even have to bear the risks for cancellation of flights,” said Bharat Atree, managing director of Caper Travels which handles charter flights in Goa.
According to Atree and other travel companies from Goa number of Russian tourists declined by about 40 percent last winter compared to 2013-14 seasons with many cancellations between January-May period.
“We have been demanding incentives from government to support charter companies which bring foreign tourists to Goa. Now instead of providing incentives, the government is charging higher deposits,” complained Francisco de Braganca, president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, according to Business Standard.
“The revision in deposits could lead to cancellations,” said Aloo Gomes Pereira, chief operating officer (charters) of Trail Blazer Tours India.
with inputs from Business Standard