Russians continue to dominate the number of foreign tourists arriving in Goa. Ever since Russians started coming to Goa more than a decade ago, their numbers have grown steadily; they have taken a leap in the last few years. Russians accounted for over 4.90 lakh (55 per cent) of total 8.90 lakh foreign tourists in Goa last year. While the number of Russian tourists has increased manifold, that of British visitors, who used to dominate the number of foreign tourists in Goa, has come down considerably, falling below a lakh for the first time in over a decade. Only 84,000 British tourists came to Goa in 2017. The number of Germans, who were second to Britons as far as foreign tourists arriving in Goa were concerned, has also been falling; their number for the last two years has been static around 28,000. The arrival of a large number of tourists from Russia is an indicator that Goa continues to be a major tourist attraction for them. Russians are in all probability going to be the largest number among foreign tourists in the coming years as well.
The number of domestic and foreign tourists arriving in the state has been growing year after year, with over 7.78 million visiting in 2017. Tourism officials have attributed the rise in the overall arrivals to efforts put in by the department to promote Goa in different parts of the country and the world. They have also acknowledged that the word-of-mouth publicity has played a role in Goa becoming a popular economical tourist destination. The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) believes Goa is a hot favourite among tourists, including Russians, because it is peaceful destination, compared to some beautiful parts of the world that are witnessing political turmoil. A large number of foreign tourists come to Goa by charter flights. The increase in the number of tourists has contributed significantly to the state economy and tourism has become one of the key generators of income for the people. However, tourism is a competitive industry and the state government has to take all steps to ensure that it goes on increasing Goa’s value as a tourist destination. If all-round growth of tourism is not there it will not be sustainable in the long term. It is necessary to expand it across the length and breadth of the state.
Most foreign tourists arrive by charter flights, whose operation costs are rising. The TTAG has raised concerns over the issue and warned that the foreign destinations competing with Goa offer better incentives to tour operators and could lure away charters. The TTAG hopes the state and central governments come up with incentives to encourage charter flights and tour operators. The state government has to take up the issue with the central government and ensure that India too offers better incentives to charter operators. Goa needs to woo more British and German tourists. They must find out the reasons for the drop in their arrivals. Are British tourists ‘avoiding’ Goa because in the past there have been cases of deaths of visitors from that country, cases which have not been taken to a satisfactory conclusion by the police? Even though Goa is a peaceful destination the Britons cannot be faulted for seeing it as an unsafe place. Or have the British and the Germans found another destination which offers far greater value in recreation than Goa?
That there has been over 30 per cent increase in the number of foreign tourist arrivals indicates that Goa is attracting more of them than before. However, the state cannot be complacent about its natural assets. Goa’s main attraction is beaches, and the state’s beaches, compared to the beaches in other international destinations, have less to offer in terms of added value. The state has to provide a wide range of recreations near the beaches. Efforts to add new tourist attractions get often mired in political controversy; opposition on some ground or the other crops up, and finally the government is pressurized by politicians to give up the idea. All that Goa offers is unclean and crowded beaches, lines of trinket-selling shops and thousands of bars. That only reinforces the stereotype about Goa and Goans. Tourists come here to drink because they have the notion that that is the Goan culture! The tourism department must support growth of new forms of recreations near the beaches. There should be all the recreations the competing international destinations offer plus more. The department, in collaboration with other departments, should also make sure that the rich Goan culture is showcased among the attractions. That would slowly make tourists realize the folly of stereotyping Goans.