Wed, 11 Dec, 2019

Lesser Russian tourists this season makes tourism industry jittery

The tourism industry is extremely concerned because the number of Russian tourists this season has been lesser than earlier. There are Russian tourists in Calangute, Morjim and other places, but their number has seen a drop. As Russians account for the largest share of foreign tourists, the industry is worried about how the season will pan out

25th November 2019, 02:10 Hrs

Karan Sehgal

There was a time around three years back that come November and you would see Russian tourists everywhere on the coastal belt of Goa. In fact, several restaurants had their menus and name-boards in the Russian language so that the tourists felt at home.

But it seems that those days are gone. In popular beach areas like Calangute, Candolim, Baga and Morjim, you can still come across Russian tourists, but their number has declined compared to earlier seasons.

Most tourism stakeholders attribute this trend to Goa becoming an expensive destination compared to Thailand, Vietnam and other places in South-East Asia.

Savio Messias, president, Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), said, “Whomever I meet in the trade, they say that the number of Russian tourists is declining this year. There are cheaper destinations like Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, which is where they are going.”

Sources also said that a lot of Russians are travelling to Egypt and Turkey because these destinations are much closer to them and as a result, they have to spend a lot lesser on travel. Granted that there are Russian tourists in Goa, but the concern is their number is not high enough.

The question is how restaurants, hotels and cafes focusing on Russian tourists will survive. There are beach-belts, for example in Morjim, which depend predominantly on Russian tourists for business.

A source from a reputed hotel in Morjim, who preferred remaining anonymous, said, “The number of Russian tourists is less this time compared to the last season in Morjim. Russians are going to Pattaya (in Thailand) and Turkey because Goa has become an expensive destination for them.”

He continued, “You hardly see young Russians, who are in their 20s, in Goa. Most Russian tourists are in their 30s or older, which clearly shows that their young generation isn’t coming to Goa.”

It’s clearly a worrying sign for Goa if young Russian tourists are not coming here. In fact, the same concern used to be about British tourists because most Britishers travelling to Goa are in their 40s or older.

If 20 or 25-year-olds travel to a destination, then you can be rest assured that they will travel for the next 3 decades. However, if 50-year-olds dominate a destination, then you never know for how long they will keep coming.

Interestingly, there are hotels, which have managed to find a lot of Russian guests, but they had to offer discounts to them. When asked why that is the case, the hoteliers replied that tour operators insist on discounts to attract the tourists.

Polly D’Cruz, general manager, The Golden Crown Hotel & Spa in Colva, said, “Even though my hotel is sold out to Russian tourists in November, this is not a normal season because my competition (which is other hotels) are struggling to get Russian travellers.”

D’ Cruz continued, “Moreover, flight operators ask us to give discounts like 7th day free for tourists for 6 days stay. They have to offer such discounts to attract travellers on their flights.”

It is interesting that such discounts are being offered when the Central Government had also cut the Goods-and-Services-Tax (GST) on hotels in September this year. The government had reduced GST rate from 28% to 18% for hotels charging more than Rs 7,500 per day tariff.

Then, it had also cut down GST to 12% compared to 18% earlier for hotels with tariff between Rs 1,001 and Rs 7,500 per day. Even with significant tax cuts, the hotels in Goa seem to be more expensive for tourists than in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Turkey and Thailand.

What makes the situation further complex for the tourism trade is the collapse of Thomas Cook in the UK in September this year. Thomas Cook used to send a significant number of British tourists every year through its scheduled flights to Goa.

The tourists, who had booked their travel on Thomas Cook flight, are not coming because it is tough and expensive to get another flight at the last moment. Therefore the number of British tourists has declined.

A source from Resort Rio said, “Compared to the previous season, the business, which we used to get from domestic tourists, has come down. I think it is due to a slowing economy. When we get an event, we are 100 per cent full, but otherwise, we do around 60 to 65 per cent occupancy, which is really low for season time.”

So far, the number of Russian tourists is low, plus a lot of Britishers are not able to travel to Goa and now even the business from domestic tourists has come down. Clearly, these are difficult times for the tourism trade.

In November and December, there are likely to be Russian tourists. But when asked about January, tour operators weren’t sure saying that it’s too early to speak. It indeed is early to give the final verdict, but the tourism industry is concerned wondering whether a significant number of Russians will travel to Goa or not this season.

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