Goa is expecting 5% growth in foreign charter flights but the actual growth could be even lower due to 25-30% rise in tour package prices and closure of a few large Russian tour operators.
Last year Goa received 1141 charter flights and this year Airport Authority of India (AAI) is expecting 1200 flights. About 70% of all charter flights come from Russia.
The AAI has received requests from 12 companies from Russia, UK, Ukraine, Finland, Kazakhastan and Dubai to operate charters and is yet to finalise slots. Actual flight movements will depend on bookings. The first flight is expected on September 24 and charter season runs from October-May.
While the political turmoil in Egypt and depreciating rupee were positive factors last year and charter arrivals increased 10% over 2012 this year could see a slower growth. This is mainly due to spike in hotel rates in Goa.
"The momentum is not very strong and we may actually have a flat growth. Goa is losing out to other budget destinations like Vietnam and increase in tour prices is discouraging tourists to visit Goa,'' said Bharat Atree, managing director of Caper Travel Company which handles Russian charters. Package costs per individual have risen from about $ 1200-1300 to $ 1500 this year in the Russian market.
"The overall trend is worrying but it could improve if the government decides to implement visa on arrival facility at Goa. That will surely help in attracting more tourists,'' said Ernest Dias, vice president (Goa) of Sita Travels.
" Two large Russian tour operators - Labirint and Neva have gone bust this year. These companies used to bring over 10,000 tourists to Goa each winter and we hope other Russian companies fill in for them,'' said Ripan Dhawan, joint managing director of Le Passage to India.
Another factor which could impact flight movements at Goa is proposed repairs to the airport runway. Originally the Indian Navy which controls the airport was to carry out the work from September but now the work is expected to start in January and would see portion of runway closed for recarpeting. This could impact movement of wide body planes such as Boeing 747-400s used by some charters.
However the state's department is confident of an overall growth in tourist arrivals and is attracting more tourists to visit the state by promoting local festivals and showcasing Goa as a wedding and meeting-incentive (MICE) destination.
"We are looking the tourist arrivals to reach up to 40 lakh this year, a growth of 15% from 2013. During last year Goa had 31.50 lakh arrivals," Goa Tourism Development Corporation Managing Director Nikhil Desai told PTI.
Data from the Goa's tourism department shows that the state received 4.50 lakh foreign tourists in 2012, a slight increase over 4.45 lakh foreign visitors in the previous year. Russians top the list with over 30% of all arrivals following by British (26%), Germany (7%).
Foreign charter arrivals during winter season in Goa
2009-10 - 627
2010-11 - 856
2011-12 - 812
2012-13 - 1044
2013-14 - 1141
Source: Airport Authority of India