Mon, 18 Mar, 2019

Tourism season likely to end prematurely in March itself

As most charter operators will stop their Goa flight by the end of this month, it is expected that tourism season too will end in March itself, which means that hoteliers will struggle to fill their rooms from April onwards. Around few years ago, the season would extend to May, which shows the extent of slowdown in tourism this year

11th March 2019, 03:26 Hrs

Karan Sehgal  

A number of tourism stakeholders have said that they expect the ongoing tourism season to finish by end of March itself. The reason for that is pretty simple. Almost all charter operators will stop bringing their flights from foreign countries to Goa from April onwards, which means there will soon be a drop in the number of foreign travellers.   

The ongoing season has been really tough for the tourism industry as fewer tourists visited Goa than earlier. In fact until December 2018, hardly few tourists could be seen in the state, apart from the domestic tourists, who visit only for short duration during weekends.   

The season, as it is in known in full swing with a lot of foreign and domestic tourists, started only in January 2019. Because the season is expected to finish by March, it shows that it lasted barely three months. Hoteliers are extremely worried because they are struggling to find ways to sell their room inventory from April onwards, when the off-season ticks in.  

Sheikh Ismail, general manager, Concord Travels & Tours, said, “Only one charter flight from Russia is expected to come to Goa till the first week of May. With the exception of that, all other charter flights will stop coming to Goa for this season from April onwards.”  

Other tour operators and hoteliers also said that while March is still looking good but the business is going to be very slow from April onwards. Russia and Britain account for a lion share of charter flights arriving in Goa. As these two countries will stop sending charter flights from April, the situation looks bleak for the tourism industry in the state.  

Polly D’Cruz, general manager, The Golden Crown Hotel & Spa in Colva, said, “Out of 50 rooms we have, 30-35 are not sold for the month of April as of now. But in March, we are 90-95% occupied, as hardly 1 or 2 rooms are left unsold.”  

D’Cruz continued, “Charter operators are asking us for discounts in April. But, our room rates are much lower in April than in March and February. Therefore, we can’t offer any discounts to them.”  

A number of hotels, especially in North Goa, which depend a lot on charter tourists are struggling to fill their rooms in April despite offering lower rates. They are also surprised that lower rates are unable to attract foreign tourists for them.   

Until 2-3 years ago, a number of foreign tourists would stay in Goa in April and even in May, as rates offered were lower than October and November rates.  

Sources also said that there are issues in getting visa for foreign tourists, which might have caused some of them to cancel their Goa trip altogether. In Russia, at times, people have to travel all the way to Indian Embassy in Moscow to get a visa to travel to Goa, which they don’t find feasible.  

Although there is a system of online visa, but sources said that the system does not work smoothly all the time causing inconvenience to the tourists.   

Ralph de Sousa, chairman, de Souza Group, said, “Earlier charter flights used to come to Goa from East European countries and Russia even in May. But in this year, most charter operators will bring their last flight for the season in March. High visa fees in India has emerged as a big deterrent for tourism. Many countries in South East Asia have negligible visa fees.”  

Sometime back, the Central Government increased the visa fees for Russians from $40 per person to $100 per person. Tour operators said that this has resulted in a lot of Russians going to other destinations like Vietnam, Egypt and Turkey and avoiding Goa altogether.  

The only hotels, which will do well from April onwards, are those with big brand names. Such brands have a chain of hotels around India and they have really aggressive marketing teams spread across the country.   

They manage to sell packages to corporate to do events in their hotels in Goa, which helps them in increasing occupancy. Unbranded standalone hotels are going to have a really tough time from April on.  

Shivam Verma, general manager, Royal Orchid Beach Resort & Spa, said, “Our hotel is 80-85% booked in April. This is because we are going to do a lot of corporate events, sales meets and etc. Branded chains of hotels are not likely to get impacted from April onwards.”  

For such corporate events, a hotel needs huge conferencing facility as well, which most properties don’t have in Goa. Moreover, every few days, a new hotel opens up in the state, which increases the supply of rooms.   

Put together, such factors have caused huge pressure on room-rates. With the off-season set to begin from April, going is expected to be really tough for tourism industry.  

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