Russian tourists cancel Goa visit; prefer Portugal, Spain

Panaji: Goa seems to be losing the preferred tourism destination among Russians as nearly 40,000 tourists have cancelled their bookings for the state this season, as per industry statistics.

"I have understood that there are at least 40,000 Russians who have diverted their holidays away from Goa during this season. And the downfall is likely to continue in the next season too," Vikram Varma, legal adviser to Russian Consulate told PTI.

The current tourism season would end at 35 per cent low compared to the last year creating a crisis in this sector, industry players have claimed.

Destinations like Portugal and Spain are becoming more attractive, affordable and safer for Russian tourists, Varma said.

"The volatile state of the Rouble is one factor resulting in reduced tourism from Russia. But I am informed that still a large number of Russians have travelled overseas for their holidays," he said.

The law official maintained that several factors within the state that can be corrected are responsible for the tourism graph to go down.

"The widespread negative publicity in the Russian social media about conduct of taxi drivers towards Russians in Goa is a critical factor in the cancellation of bookings and their choice for alternate destinations like Spain and Portugal," he said. Both the countries have offered better prices and a safe environment to Russian tourists, Varma said.

"The image of Goa as a safe and competitive tourist destination has suffered a considerable setback and it would need a substantial amount of thinking by all of us to put the industry back on track. This thinking clearly needs to be out-of-the-box," said Varma who has been helping out Russian tourists in distress in the state.

State Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar and Tourism Director Amey Abhyankar were not available for comments on the trend.

Travel and Tourism Association of Goa's spokesman Ralf D'Souza said overall downfall in the state's tourism is up to 30 per cent till date and the current season is expected to end at 35 per cent lesser footfalls.

"This trend (of downfall) has just started and Goa will see reduction in western and eastern European arrivals," D'Souza said. He added that competing countries in the tourism sector are offering incentives, which are not there in Goa to attract travellers.

"Also, there are several local issues that need to be addressed. The skyrocketing airlines tickets is a major factor. The tourists arriving in other parts of India are finding it costly to travel to Goa. The domestic tourists are also finding it expensive to come here," he said.

Goa's loss has been gain of several other countries. Countries like Egypt, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos and Combodia are offering several incentives for the tourists, D'Souza said.

The tourism sector is also wary and closely monitoring West African destinations which are currently undergoing a downturn in arrival due to Ebola fear. "Once Ebola fear goes away, these countries will offer mind blowing incentives to attract tourists," remarked D'Souza.

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