Goa is expecting 1,400 chartered flights from 15 countries[KERALA LOST TO GOA BECAUSE OF POLITICS/BANDHS]

Tourists go Goa, despite negative news

2013 likely to be one of the best years for tourist arrivals at the beach destination
Read more on:    Goa | Tourists | Tehelka | Hotel Industry | Foreign Tourist
, one of India's most popular beach destinations, has made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent times. But, if numbers are any indication, its tourism is far from affected. Within a month of the murder of a Nigerian youth triggering unrest in the region and close on the heels of the Think Fest controversy, Conde Nast Traveller Awards has named Goa the top-most leisure destination.

This year, Goa is expecting 1,400 chartered flights from 15 countries in December's peak holiday season. That would make 2013 one of the best years for the destination in recent times.

In the non-peak January-September period of 2013, domestic and arrivals to Goa were 10 per cent higher than in the same period the previous year. But it is the October-December period, traditionally considered a busy season, that fetches Goa almost 50 per cent of its annual tourist inflows. The tourist arrivals during this period last year was almost the same as in 2011, but, authorities claim, the number would be much higher this year - perhaps 10 per cent more.

"When you open your doors to guests, all sorts of people come in. But what has happened is an aberration and immediate action has been taken by the authorities," said Nikhil Desai, director, Goa Tourism, referring to the Nigerian's murder.

In a step that might help it attract a higher number of , Goa is expecting to be included in the list of cities that can offer the visa-on-arrival facility. To check untoward activities marring Goa's image, its director general of police recently held a meeting with stakeholders, including hotel owners and operators. The state police are also taking steps like night patrolling and building strong tourist security forces to deal with safety issues.

Not very long ago, in 2008, British resident Scarlett Keeling was raped and murdered on a Goa beach. That was also the year that saw Goa registering its biggest drop in tourist arrivals, of 10 per cent.

"Most foreign tourists that come here are Russians or East Europeans. They are literally ruling certain areas of Goa, promoting drug peddling and other illegal activities. They have flourished because even the authorities are hand in glove," says a local resident, asking not to be named.

Tourism directly and indirectly contributes a third to the total earnings and employment of Goa. The state government would now move cautiously in its marketing efforts. "We want to attract a smaller number of tourists; we will target the high-end consumer through our campaigns," Desai adds.

To support upscale travel, Goa is banking on its upcoming marina and a golf course being developed by luxury hotel chain Four Seasons.

Last year, when room rates were declining across the country, Goa's , in fact, saw an increase in average rates. Room tariffs in the state rose three per cent the first half of 2013, compared with the same period a year ago, bucking the trend seen nationally.

In December, tariffs are expected to increase 10 per cent across hotels. For a budget hotel like Ginger, with an average price of Rs 1,700 nationally, one room night in Goa is going for Rs 5,332 at present. By mid-December, this is expected to go up to Rs 6,500. According to an HVS study, Goa ranks third in the list of top Indian destinations for overseas travellers, after Delhi and Mumbai.