Off season? No, off to Goa for `raindrop tourism`

Panaji: The shacks are missing, there is no water sporting activity and the beaches are much less crowded. Yet a growing number of people, especially domestic tourists, are discovering a different, more lush and refreshed Goa during the off season - the monsoons.

Typically, the tourist season in Goa begins in late September and continues through March. This is the time when the weather is dry and pleasant and tourists - from India and across the world - make a beeline to soak in the goodness of the sun-kissed beaches and discover the quaint architecture of the churches, temples and mosques.

However, the rains unveil a different beauty of the emerald land on the west coast of India and the state`s tourism department has been trying to attract tourists during this time of the year, calling it `raindrop tourism`.

Said Ashwini Sharma, a businessman from Assam who was in Goa with his family for a holiday: "I have come to Goa before in the winters. But this time I decided to get my wife and children around this time because the kids have their summer vacations now."

"For some the rains may act as a spoiler, especially since it starts pouring every now and then, but my children are having a blast!" Sharma, who is staying near the Calangute beach, told reporters.

"The beaches are just as beautiful, the sea as alluring and the greenery everywhere an absolute delight," he added.

Pooja Singh, who was also holidaying with her husband and son in north Goa where the more well-known beaches are, said: "My husband is a travel agent and he suggested that we come to Goa for our summer break instead of a hill station as usual."

"Although I was a little sceptical of coming here at this time of the year, I must say that Goa never fails to take your breath away," she said.

"And the rains unveil a different beauty of this place. It`s so green! While the shacks on the beaches are not there, there are a few near Baga (beach), so we have just been lazing there, watching the waves and unwinding," said Singh, who hails from Delhi.

According to official figures, during monsoon Goa receives only 10 percent of the total tourist inflow. In 2010, the state received over 2.64 million tourists. But with promotional packages, discounts and festivals like Sao Joao, which has revellers jumping into water bodies to welcome the monsoon, there have been attempts to raise the figure.

The monsoon, however, brings along some lurking dangers because of the swelling sea. According to lifeguards on the beaches in north Goa, 120 people were rescued from the sea this season.

"During monsoon, the sea is much more wild. We keep manning the beach and advise holidayers not to swim during high tide," Mahesh, a lifeguard, told reporters while doing the rounds of Calangute beach in a gypsy car.

"However, not everyone pays heed and there have been accidents. Just this season we have rescued 120 people from drowning," he added.

"From June to around September, it`s off season, when it rains a lot and sporting activities are called off as a safety measure. Everything, from the shacks on the beaches to the sports to the crowds, comes back after that," he added.

Around 21 lifeguards man the 800- metre-long Calangute beach. The other beaches are manned accordingly.

"Mostly domestic tourists come during the off season. On weekends the numbers can rise to around 2,000-3,000 on a single beach. During the peak season, the numbers double or even triple," said Nishant, another lifeguard.

IANS