Goa, the most favoured beach destination in the country, comes alive to welcome Christmas and New Year, with carols filling the air and merriment reaching its peak accentuated by sonorous symphony of church bells.
However, the tourism industry stake-holders feel that response of tourists is muted this time compared with the last year due to a number of reasons like higher taxes and expensive hotel stay.
State Tourism Department too admitted slump in hotel occupancies, but is also hopeful that the tourist footfall will pick up by December 31, as year 2018 draws to close.
Goa, which has 27 per cent Christian population, is soaked in Christmas spirit with houses being adorned with beautiful Christams trees and attractive lights to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Churches are also illuminated with lights while religious fervour and Christmas prayers have set the mood for the Christian festival.
However, tourism stake-holders like the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) claimed that response of Christmas and New Year revellers is tepid this time.
TTAG chairman Savio Messiah told PTI that tourist footfalls are decreasing every year due to heavy taxation that has a cascading effect on boarding expenses.
He called for immediate corrective measures by the Central and state governments.
"Hotel occupancies are around 50-60 per cent this year, as against the conventional figure of 90-95 per cent", Messiah told PTI.
He said introduction of Goods and Service Tax (GST) had resulted into a huge increase in room tariffs last year as well.
"There has been reduction in the GST but that is not helping the industry to attract tourists", he claimed.
According to Messiah, the increased cost of travelling in Goa is also one of the reasons for revellers being cold to spend their precious holidays in the coastal state.
People feel that spending time at foreign destinations is a cheaper option than Goa, he said.
The trend is not only resitricted to domestic revellers, but the number of foreign tourists visiting Goa has dropped too.
Operators feel that Goa, which has unique culture of beach shacks, has failed to attract crowds on its shoreline even on the Christmas Eve.
Cruz Cardozo, who heads Shack Owners' Welfare Society, said that their outlets are wearing a deserted look this year.
"A few Indian tourists have started arriving but overall there is a reduction in the business. We are hoping people to arrive for Christmas and New Year. The season is not looking that bright as it used to be earlier", he said.
Palm thatched beach shacks is one of the USPs of Goa tourism.
The shacks are allowed on the coastline only during the New Year season.
Cardozo said the number of foreign tourists arriving in the state has gone down by 50 per cent.
"Reports about cancellations of various chartered flights is really worrying for us", he said.
State Tourism Director Sanjiv Gadkar said the dip in the occupancy is because of various factors.
"However, Goa is all set to welcome tourists who will arrive here for Christmas and New Year. The season has just begun. We are expecting many more tourists to arrive in coming days", he said.