Panaji: Anxious about a potential drop in Russian tourists, a mainstay for Goa’s travel and tourism industry, the authorities here are desperately wooing other European markets – and even China – in a bid to make up the numbers.
Among the countries that are in Goa Tourism’s radar are Poland, Holland, Latvia and Kazakhstan for the short-term and the Middle East and Southeast Asian regions for the long term, as the state aims to secure a limited open skies status to facilitate flights from the two regions.
While around 1,000 Latvian tourists are scheduled to visit Goa during the tourist season from October to March, at a do held last month in Kazakhstan’s largest city of Almaty, Indian ambassador Harsh Kumar Jain, invoked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pitch Goa as a tourism destination to around 80 Kazakh travel and tour operators.
“The leaders of both countries confirmed the high importance of tourism during a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kazakhstan. The heads of our countries have paid special attention to ways and means to strengthen cooperation in this important sector,” Jain also said.
Indian consular offices located in Almaty and the capital Astana process nearly 15,000 visas annually.
Russians top the list of foreign tourist arrivals to Goa’s beaches followed by tourists from Britain, but industry stakeholders have already predicted a dip in the number of Russians this season due to a slowdown in the Russian economy and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
While 985 out of the 1,128 charter flights which landed in Goa during the 2013-14 tourist season were from Russia, in 2014-15 only 813 charters arrived here, of which only 537 were from Russia and carried only 104,890 tourists on board.
“There will be a dip in tourists from Russia, especially because of the economic crisis, tourism operators going bankrupt and the ongoing conflict between Russia and the Ukraine,” said Ekaterina Belyakova, who heads the Russia Information Centre in Goa.
In response, tourism officials here are busy wooing the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as new markets like the Netherlands and Poland.
“We have received a tremendous response from the Polish and Dutch markets. We expect a good number of tourists from these two countries in the coming season,” Goa Tourism Director Ameya Abhyankar told IANS.
In May, Goa hosted travel and tourism industry representatives from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur region to pitch for tourists from the country’s northwest.
Goa is also aspiring to be a transit hub between the Middle East and the Southeast Asian region by lobbying with the union civil aviation ministry to approve a limited open skies policy that allows unlimited air traffic between two nations or clusters of countries.
“We are requesting the union civil aviation ministry to approve the limited open skies policy for the Southeast Asian and the Middle East region. It will help us get traffic from the two regions and promote tourism,” Abhyankar said.
The state attracts nearly three million tourists every year, out of whom half a million are foreigners.