Looking beyond Russia; diversifying through adventure activities, says Nikhil Desai

As the Russian influx sees a major drop in volume, Goa is eyeing newer markets to balance the fast changing dynamics of footfalls. It is now betting on better days through a meticulous infusion of a plethora of adventure based activities and sizeable investment into its tourism infrastructure to enhance the visitor experience. An exclusive with the MD Nikhil Desai, GTDC

Nikhil Desai-MD

Goa is in midst of a transition. As the nature and volume of the inbound from the Russian shores changes, it is positioning itself to seek newer markets, we were told. It remains a fact that Russian tourists have caused concern to certain sections of travelers who choose not to intermingle with them, causing loss of business from French, Italian, and other high-profile inbound. However, Nikhil Desai, Managing Director GTDC allayed such concerns stating that as a tourism board they welcomed every tourist into Goa. “The more the merrier. As far as Russia is concerned, last couple of years has been challenging because of a depreciating Ruble, spate of international sanctions and war in Ukraine. Still, they are number one in terms of inbound in Goa,” he explained the reason behind a fast changing dynamics. He agreed that the mass volume had decreased but also noted that instead of a barrage of tourists from all sections of the society, Russian inflow was getting confined to higher and upper-middle class segment – which was raising the quality.

Goa’s bid to assiduously cultivate newer markets will be a challenging one, the MD noted. “You cannot develop new markets suddenly. But, there is a window of hope for us because we always have to look at diversification. We have to consistently go to newer markets which we have already started doing,” he said. “In fact, we are looking at markets from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and even as far as Australia, apart from traditional markets like the UK, Germany etc. So, the results are evident in the form of a healthy turnaround with tourists coming in from those regions,” added Nikhil Desai.

Attributing the launch of e-visa facility for enhanced footfalls from previously weak markets, he told us that in terms of specific nations, Iran was surprisingly coming up strongly. “We hosted over a hundred Iranian charters last year. What is even better is that they come in the months of March, April and May when we actually need inflow. We also had them in the monsoon season, this time around,” substantiated the MD. Informing that Arabs, too, had started coming in the monsoon season – which worked very well for them – he told us that with the Air-Asia introducing direct flights, there was a spike in numbers from the Malaysian shores. However, he concurred that there were many challenges that needed to be overcome in the days ahead. Sharing that Goa had set its eye on improving footfalls from the Western Europe which would be a challenge, given the prevalent economic condition, he told us that “we are expecting a six percent growth year-on-year, compared to the last year from foreign tourist segment, besides a twenty five percent growth from the domestic sector.”

Giving us an insight into key domestic markets, we were informed that influx from north India was growing at a remarkable rate. “Kolkata is emerging as a major source market for us. There are drive-ins from Maharashtra – numbers are massive. Actually, it is turning out to be great short getaway for tourist from as far as Bangalore, Pune, Dharwad, Hubli and Kolhapur,” he shared. Further commenting on the question of dwindling numbers during monsoons which was once an important peg of the overall tourism product of Goa, he noted that they were registering sixty percent occupancy during monsoons which was much better, compared to clocking twenty five percent five years ago. He further argued that it was good occupancy. “Some destinations get that kind of occupancy ratio during their peak season,” he reasoned. Adding that Goa was catering to wedding segment, small conferences and MICE, he said that tourists from newer markets were helping them further strengthen this front.

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