The arrival of a charter flight from Russia marked the beginning of the new tourist season in the state. The flight carried 519 passengers, just three less than its capacity. The arrival of a record number of tourists in the first flight is seen as a promising beginning for the new tourism season. Charter flights to the state began in the 1980s. In 1985-86, 24 charter flights landed, bringing in 3,568 tourists, and since then the number of flights has been increasing steadily. The number of charter tourists peaked in the year 2014-15 with the state playing host to a little over 1.61 lakh tourists who arrived by 895 charter flights. The number of charter flights went down in 2015-16 as only 798 flights arrived in Goa carrying nearly 1.59 lakh tourists mainly due to recession in the western nations and Russia. The number of charter flights to the state reached all-time high in 2016-17 as 988 flights touched the state bringing in over 2.32 lakh tourists.
While the first charter tourists of the season were given a ceremonial welcome on their arrival at the Dabolim airport in the early morning hours on Sunday by the tourism department officials and other stakeholders, they had to face awkward moments as they were also greeted by stray dogs as they came out of the airport. The unwanted situation could have been avoided by the officers of the airport, the airport security and the tourism department. They could have taken steps to keep the stray dogs away or getting them picked up by the animal squad. Stray dogs might not pose any danger to foreign tourists but their presence could frighten them. It is time the authorities took steps to rid the airport of stray animals as they could seriously jeopardize the safety of the passengers as well as flights in case they manage to enter the runway. Stray dogs and cattle are a common sight on the roads of the state; they not only give the state a bad name but also pose serious risks of accidents. Management of stray cattle and dogs throughout the state, including the airport and railway stations, should be done in a comprehensive manner by the government in collaboration with the local self-governing bodies.
This year the state is hoping to break all the previous records in charter tourist numbers, though there are issues relating to allotment of slots for landing to charter flights. The state tourism authorities have been promoting Goa as a tourist destination and their efforts appear to have paid off, given the fact that the arrival of tourists has been increasing steadily year after year. However, it is not enough to promote the state; the state and airport authorities need to also ensure that charter flights operators do not face problems with regard to operation of their flights. The issues have to be sorted out at the earliest. Goa is facing competition from operators from Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Maldives, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, West Indies, West Africa, and Egypt and steps have to be taken to match the facilities offered by the competitors. Other tourist destinations offer incentives, facilities and marketing support, making charter flight operations cost effective both for the operators and the travellers. Goa too needs to take proactive measures in this direction so that the tourist flow goes on increasing.
With a tough competitive atmosphere prevalent in the tourism sector, Goa cannot afford to be complacent. Every year, large contingents of public servants from Goa travel to world tourism marts and fairs. However, little attention is paid to make our tourist destinations attractive. Other nations know how to maximize attractions of tourist destinations. The cleanliness, aesthetics and management of tourist destinations in the state leave a lot to be desired. More often than not, Dona Paula and the Miramar beach, the state capital’s two prime destinations, are found lacking in attractiveness. Certain new forms of tourist entertainment were introduced but somehow local resistance and other issues kept them from adding to the worth of Goa as tourist destination. The road connecting the most popular coastal tourist stretch from Calangute to Baga does leave foreign and domestic tourists with impressions of mismanagement and indifference. If the tourist destinations of Goa start looking clean, aesthetic, good and full of attractions, the number of charter tourists will multiply faster. For inviting charter tourists, ministers and high officers go to international cities. But for making the state’s tourist destinations look exciting and attractive, there is no ‘mai-baap’. The destinations look as neglected as orphans.