You are currently viewing Goa’s Tourism Woes

Goa’s Tourism Woes

The Real Story Behind The Low Numbers, Empty Hotel Rooms and Overall Slump In Goa’s Tourism Lifeline.

There’s talk of shack owners shutting shop as early as January, hotel rooms going vacant despite big discounts and beach beds finding no takers.  And yet, at the other end of the line there were two big EDM festivals, a well-attended religious event (the St Francis Relics Exposition), and a glut of tourists choking the roads and leaving the beaches littered with liquor bottles.

So what’s the consensus? Is the season lean or mean?

Tourism officials contacted for this article said they are in the process of compiling arrival data for November and December, information that won’t be available for another few days. But they did confirm that the number of charter flights to Goa has dropped by 35 percent this season as compared to last. And an avalanche of anecdotal evidence, combined with a look at hotel occupancy, restaurant patronage and other indicators, reveals that something is seriously askew with this year’s tourist season.

Hotels have had a hard time filling their rooms, even during the normally packed Christmas/New Year’s period – despite slashing their rates by as much as 70 percent. With the exception of a handful of popular eateries, many high-end restaurants are experiencing significant declines in business – as have have hundreds of beach shacks along the once bustling coastline.

To be sure, the first three weeks of January have seen something of an uptick in hotel occupancy, and word seems to have traveled abroad that a) Goa’s prices are coming down and b) fewer Russians are coming (their ubiquitous presence, fair or not, had kept some other Europeans at bay.) Explains Siddharth Savkur, General Manager of the five-star resort Alila Diwa Goa, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Communities that had stayed away are now beginning to return.” Still, he acknowledges, not anywhere near the numbers we saw, say, five years ago.


The question is not just HOW MANY are arriving, but also WHO is arriving?

The answer seems to be fewer Russians and more Gujaratis, fewer jetsetters and more hippies, fewer professionals and more backpackers. With both the Russian economy and the ruble in the dumps, the fall in Russian arrivals is readily explainable. But why are Brits, Scandinavians and Germans, along with quite a few moneyed tourists from places like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, also staying away from Goa?

One top reason is earlier hotel rates, which had grown to be prohibitively expensive in recent years, especially during peak season. Even for domestic tourists, heading to places like Thailand or Sri Lanka began to make more sense financially. And then there’s the ubiquitous garbage lining the roads and beaches, turning what’s supposed to be a dream holiday destination into an eye sore. Huge, unruly crowds in areas like Tito’s Lane or the Calangute beach were a turn-off, stripping paradise of its elbow room. And that’s not to mention the infrastructure needs – roads, sewage, water, etc – that have failed to keep pace with Goa’s development.


“I used to come to Goa every year for New Year’s to celebrate with some friends. But now I’ve stopped. You can’t move anywhere,” a professional based in Mumbai said, referring to the traffic jams in the state.

And yet now that hotel rates have come down and the crowds have thinned, the 2014-2015 tourist season may come to be seen as a necessary correction – setting the stage for a healthier showing next year.

“Seasons like this help separate the men from the boys,” said one hospitality industry stakeholder who didn’t wish to be named. Those in possession of staying power – and who know how to attract and keep a loyal clientele – are the ones who will survive, he said.

Goa clearly wants to attract high-spending tourists, but the goal is hindered by the presence of so many low-spending ones already here – especially the so-called “male mob” tourists, large groups of men who arrive in Goa, sleep in vehicles, relieve themselves in fields, drink a lot and purchase little. (In an upwardly mobile developing nation of more than a billion people, much of this is to be expected, as people who a generation ago could not fathom holidaying in another state are now able to do so).


Add to that the garbage, the touts and an assortment of other woes.

“In the long term these things will surely have an effect. But if one is talking about this season in particular it cannot be the garbage and harassment of touts alone. They have always been around,” said Ernest Dias, proprietor of Sita travel agency, which mainly caters to Russian tourists.

For him and Sita, of course, the fallout in Russia from the plunge in oil prices and the Ukraine debacle is the most important factor explaining this year’s malaise.

“It’s nothing but the Russian economy and the weakening of the currency,” he said, adding that Russian arrivals are down 30 percent this year.

Goa’s tourism is constantly changing. If in recent years Russians started replacing Brits and Germans, now it appears other Eastern Europeans are replacing Russians. On a recent flight between Mumbai and Goa, this writer witnessed more than half the plane occupied by tourists from Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and other CIS countries. And they weren’t charter tourists but people on regular flights.

The recently enacted Visa on Arrival facility extended to tourists from some 40+ countries is good news, to be sure. Officials at the Goa airport reported that between the first and third weeks of December more than a thousand tourists used the facility. The breakup is as follows: Russia (595), Ukraine (430), USA (25), Germany (15), UAE (7), Australia (4) Philippines (4), Israel (3), Jordan (3), New Zealand (2), Brazil (1) Finland (1), Kenya (1) Norway (1) and Singapore (1). It must be noted that the UK is not included in the Visa on Arrival facility, something Goan tourism stakeholders are working diligently to change – and indeed many Britons have complained of high visa fees and difficulty of obtaining visas.

While the Visa on Arrival facility is still in a nascent stage and the numbers are not particularly high, stakeholders are pleased it exists. Making it easier for tourists to arrive is a step in the right direction. The harder part is making their visit wonderful once they’re already here.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Dee Sunshine

    The reason for the drop in rates of visitors to Goa might be because of the greediness of hotel owners and shop-keepers. The prices of rooms here in Arambol are more than twice that of the rest of India. The prices that shop-keepers charge is usually at least twice that of elsewhere, and they will frequently chance their arm by trying to charge anything up to 1000 rupees for a simple sarong. If they are suffering woes now, then it serves them right. It is their karma for their greed. I have no sympathy. I’ve been coming to Goa for over 20 years now. It used to be paradise and over the years it is becoming more and more like the sort of hellish resorts you get in Spain…. now there are less and less places that are pleasant for the backpacker/ hippie type and they are moving onto pastures newer and greener.


    Filth,rubbish,dirty water.drugs, drink,gangs of badly behaved indian men,high prices,high visa prices,high rents,dishonest taxi drivers, packs of wild dogs,rabies,dirty beaches,masses of plastic,burning rubbish,bad functional internet and mobile services,dangerous drivers,bad roads,too many cars.etc who the hell wants to come to Goa…….

  3. Harry Lall

    Greetings, I am astrologer Harry Lall. A nice Article I must say but
    Actually the Article misses out on one most important fact that most of the people who I saw in Goa from East European, CIS countries and Russia this year were the people who come to work on the beaches and look for very cheap and long term stay kind of places from where they can also operate their things like Massage, healing, selling things / arts etc. And normally they have only Visa for three months and after two months they have to go out of India ! It makes all the things very costly for them ! And the second thing is now locals are more vocal and don’t let Russians run the Restaurants and Transport companies. This year the number of actual tourists ( the tourists with no business interest ) was very low when I surveyed in November and December Colwa, Baga, Calangute, Palolem, Anjuna, Vagator, Mianmar, Vasco, Panaji and Arambol etc. And as all of them had a negative results and feed back in November and December will not come back in February and March !

  4. dimitrios

    this year i keep reading about how tourism in goa is going down,about empty hotel rooms e.c.t…i m realy sorry, BUT YOU ALL HAVE TO KNOW that the problem has started years ago.. I spend 12 happy years in the land of goa, in the times that there where no alcohol at all, the times that some wealthy people was visiting goa to relax and become one with the friendly locals and hippies. I used to say to my loved ones that i used to rent a room,that the progression that the local governer was seeking(after the unparalleled interview where he was saying that you are looking for rich tourists) full wallets and no cheap tourists.You never understood what was the motive for the westerns to visit goa..and that was the simplicity of the way things were. I live in greece,here we work with tourism the last 40 years, and we lost a big piece of the pie just the same way as you ,years ago now..the big luxurious hotels are now reliks and the only places that still have tourists are the ones that are “selling” simplicity and my country s idenity..The russians will leave soon from india and everybody will ask to come back the old days of “poor” tourists,who were staying there for more than to months, not spending that much, but giving their small money to the real economy of Goans and not to the big capital that have moved to goa the last years.. stop looking for rich people,there so many places for theme and you can t compete these places (dubai.hawai,monaco,capri,mykonos).. stay simple, is the only way

  5. Jessica Boyd

    All valid observations in the article. One more thing I would like to add, especially in regards to Goa as a family holiday destination, is the severe lack of recreational activities. Once you’re done tooling around on a scooter and going to the beach…..that’s basically it. Let’s face it, Goa can get down right boring for families with children. What kid wants to go to a hot flea mkt during the day, or a loud and crowded late night mkt? We all had high hopes for the waterpark in Baga, but it is filthy and dangerous. Come on Tourism Department and Goan entrepreneurs get with the program!! Visit some international holiday destinations to get some inspiration and then implement it!

  6. marco kuhn

    the real high end tourist will never come to goa, they do not want to see mountains of garbage or tousends of drunken men pissing all over. goa can attrac middle class peoples with familys if the gouverment start to put some money in the until now verry bad infrastructure like roads, sewerage etc. but if you want familys with children, then you can not promote goa as a party place. i think that india have to find other places for beach tourism, because if 1.3 billions whant to come to goa……….

  7. Cathy

    Maybe people are tired of being ripped off by everyone they come in contact with . It’s sure gets too bother you after awhile……..

  8. Prakash Sanzgiri

    As a person who has visited Goa since childhood, our Kuldevata is Mangeshi, I feel that the current situation of tourism in Goa , was a catastrophe waiting to happen.
    # I can never forget our trip when we stayed in a Colva hotel. we were the only Indians in a hotel full of foreigners. We were surprised to find no waiter serving us at the breakfast table. Why because we were Indians
    # On another visit , the taxi drivers demanded atrocious rates to transport us for a few kilometers. We tried approaching others; they had a nexus; hotel staff couldn’t help; we had to pay up.
    # Last year I went to Goa to lecture. I stayed at a 5 star hotel in South Goa. there a buffet dinner. Imagine only one fish dish. And believe it or not , they Amritsari Bassa masala. No Goan dish.
    # How many of the cab drivers know Goa. Most are either drunk on feni or North Indian employees of a Goan mafia .
    # What about hotel tariff ? Atrociously costly. The transport costs , bad on pockets. Food: The fish , bassa or stale cold storage local fish , at times fish imported from Veraval, Gujarat. Is this the Goa of old? Littered beaches. Dirty, unpaved roads, poor infrastructure , lack of toilets in public places.
    # Parts of Goa are the fiefdom of Russians, Nigerians, Israelis;. they own hotels, restaurants, transport in selected areas
    # Drugs , Alcohol , Prostitution, Roadside alcoholism — How can a family take a vacation in such a place?

  9. mike harding

    visa on arrival does not include the uk and I am not going to pay the huge increase in visa costs used to be £30 now £130 and the Russians do not pay that much.the Russians have a lot to do with me not coming, noisy arrogant think they own the place, I had decided not to come before the ruuble went doen the pan.the police also do not make you feel welcolme beating Indians on the beach pulling down shacks while you are there, limiting sunbeds so you cant get one. Goa used to be a wonderful place and always my first choice twice a year but the powers that be spoiled it. you don’t make the British welcome so we are going where we are welcome CAMBODIA. its your loss sort it out

  10. victoria young

    thecreason brits dont come anymore is because of the high visa rates we as a country have not been inculded in the visa on arrival scheme. Both my husband and i enjoy India however the high rates fir visas has meant us looking us elsewhere for a yearly holiday destination

  11. Alan Johnson

    The visa has cost me and my wife £240

  12. Ken

    From a person who lived many years in Goa and traveled there-in intensively and extensively… Once you go out of India and then come back, you realize how bad India and Goa in particular have become. It is almost every other country improved and we went backwards…this inspite of the wealth in India.

  13. Jenny

    I am very disappointed at the criticism towards the regular Goan tourists like myself and the plan to attract “high end tourists”. Myself and my husband have been coming to South Goa for 10+ years. We hire an apartment owned by an Indian family, shop locally for our food use beach shacks and restaurants owned by Goans and use local taxis and buses to get around.

    Where will these so called “high end tourists” spend their money. I multinational hotel chains I don’t doubt. We love Goa and it’s people and I am very disappointed that the officials want to get rid of loyal tourists like ourselves.

  14. Mikesme

    Dear reader to attract high class tourists you must provide a clean hygienic attractive environment that starts at Dabolim airport drive north or south to your chosen destination your shocked by the amount of rubbish and litter along the roads ,high crime and untidy beaches and unsanitary beach shacks

  15. tony

    I think greed has taken over goa and having police on the beach and ARMED soldiers does not put me in holiday mood .i go to goa to get away from all that stuff like cctv but its all going to goa a once free paradise now turning into a police amd army training ground guns on the beacj just dont do it .amd chasing women n children for selling on the beach well call me old fasion but i like to help these people.peace n love to you all

  16. Ken Pemberton

    We have been coming to Goa for the last 15 years. Nothing changes. Litter, unreliable electric supply, crazy traffic, hassle with traders etc. At least 2014 and 2015 the red dust was missing due to the mines being closed but that is about to change. Without the mining the sea has been much more blue. I think it is too easy to say the Russians aren’t coming due to financial and political reasons. Russian tourists appear to be in large numbers across Europe, Egypt, Thailand etc. It might be that not enough have been to Goa with good reports and the negative reports have drowned out the positive. Goa needs someone to set in motion a plan to correct the failings, it might be too late though.

  17. John Smith

    Why are there so many Lamani beach sellers on Benaulim beach and yet none in Adonda, Palolem and in the north?
    The answer is corrupt police.

    Why are tourists not coming to Goa?
    The answer is cheating taxi drivers, garbage, wild dogs on the beach, kept dogs howling all night in their cages and the Goan politicians that line their pockets and spend more time trying to stab each other in the back instead of solving Goa’s issues. How can a once fisherman now politician be driving around in an expensive car…….corruption!

    Goa, you reap what you sow!

  18. Cecilia Barber

    Dear sir, I think that if the government would allow visas on arrival for people like myself and my husband British through and through, you would have no difficulty in filling hotels and beach shacks. We have been coming to goa for the last 14 years, we love the weather, the people and the food, but the one thing that is an absolute pain, is applying for a visa, it’s time consuming, the website isn’t particularly easy to navigate, then you have to print off 4 x A4 sheets per person and post off to the visa centre, not knowing if you will get it back in time for your holiday, plus the cost it doubled last year. I read in the local indian press that it was the fact that England had a high Number of Pakistani immigrants and that we were a security risk, well in the present climate I would agree that one has to be more than careful who you allow to visit your country but we have been coming for so long, I am afraid we will be looking elsewhere for our annual holiday, somewhere where we feel wanted,I say this with a heavy heart because of all the countries we have been fortunate to visit Goa stands out , mainly because of its lovely welcoming citizens, which over the years have become friends. I hope the goan people get treated better by their government, because they deserve much more, they are so hard working.

Comments are closed.