Sun shines on Goa even as Europe freezes over

Panaji: Despite Europe`s travel itineraries freezing up due to an intense cold wave, Goa`s tourism prospects luckily continue to bask in the mild winter sun here.

Travel and tourism industry stakeholders here say the European chill has not affected the Goa market much and also that the domestic tourist has helped tide over the tourist season, which lasts from October to March.

"The bad weather in Europe has not hampered tourist arrivals into Goa in any way. None of the charter or regular flights have been cancelled or re-scheduled so far," Director of Tourism Swapnil Naik told IANS.

"Goa is expecting close to 750 charter flights from parts of Europe this tourist season," he added.

Ralph de Souza, a spokesperson for the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), said there was not a single instance of the cold wave in Europe cancelling charter flights which ferry thousands of tourists from Britain and Russia to Goa.

"Not a single flight arriving into Goa has been cancelled so far due to the cold wave experienced in Europe. A few flights were delayed, the maximum delay being five hours at the most, but every single flight scheduled to arrive into Goa landed," de Souza said.

"There have been no cancellations or rescheduling of charter flights from Europe," he added.

Hotel owners in the state claim that while foreign tourists are significant to the success of tourism in the state, domestic tourists were flocking to Goa`s tourism party.

"Our occupancy has dropped a little due to a decline in foreign tourists this year. However, there has been a simultaneous increase in domestic tourist arrivals," said Sales and Marketing General Manager Benedict D`Souza of Resort Rio located in Arpora.

"I don`t think we will be affected too much, thanks to the domestic tourists," he added.

According to Tangerine Boutique Hotel managing director Harvinder Singh, domestic tourism is booming.

"The domestic market is booming as of now. Domestic tourists are pouring into Goa, especially with New Year around the corner, due to which we haven`t witnessed a drop in occupancy," he said.

Ralph de Souza claimed that the domestic market would make up for any possible shortfall in the number of foreign tourists this year.

"We have witnessed a spurt in the domestic market over the last few weeks. December sees a large number of domestic tourists flocking into Goa to celebrate the festive season and usher in the New Year," he said.

"The increase in domestic tourists will make up for the decline in foreign tourists," he added.

Naik said the Christmas to New Year period had marked an increase in the number of tourists coming to the state.

"There has also been an increase in the arrival of domestic tourists, especially this month, as Goa is a favourite destination for Christmas and New Year celebrations," he said.

Goa attracts nearly 2.4 million tourists annually, of which half a million are foreign tourists.