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Goa could lose Rs 100 crore if UK visa issues not sorted out: Travel body

PANAJI: A prominent travel trade body said on Thursday that if the delays in issuance of visas to UK travellers are not reduced, Goa’s tourism sector could possibly see losses to the tune of Rs 80-100 crore. “Even if we assume that 10,000 travellers cancel their holiday plans to Goa, the overall impact on the hotel industry would be huge. The average stay of a (charter) tourist being ten nights, we would lose around 1 lakh rooms,” said TTAG president Nilesh Shah. Smaller hotels are highly dependent on charter tourists, while the past two seasons were extremely bad for them even as starred hotels remain afloat, with Goa becoming a preferred destination for all segments of desi tourists. The state has around 400-500 hotels with three and fewer stars. Apart from the loss to hotels, which would be around Rs 30 crore, Shah said that a multiplier effect will escalate losses for the industry. Tourists may go where visas are easier: TTAG Tourists spend on transport, liquor, food, entertainment, as well as shopping. If all factors are considered, the overall impact on the economy could be in the range of Rs 80-100 crore,” Shah said. Even as the tourism industry has survived the pandemic with increased domestic footfalls, Shah said it is crucial for Goa that it does not lose the UK, because it is not easy to regain lost markets. Currently, with the wait period to get a normal visa being two to three months for a UK citizen, the TTAG president said that if steps are not taken to issue visas expeditiously, leave alone e-visas, potential travellers will likely avoid Goa, and may go to Bali, Turkey, Thailand, or any other destination that issues visa without hassle. “Once a customer moves out of the destination, it is difficult to recapture a market. Goa has experienced it. After charters from countries such as Finland, Germany, and Poland were stopped a few years ago, it has not been able to reclaim them,” Shah said. While India does not issue e-visas to UK citizens, they also face difficulties in securing regular visas. A recent change in visa rules requires a British holidaymaker to appear in person at the visa centre. While operators are seeing regular cancellations of bookings to Goa, Shah said that they have not yet received the exact numbers of bookings cancelled so far. A local operator also told TOI that they would have more clarity over total bookings cancelled by next week. Before Covid hit, Goa would annually receive around 45,000 charter travellers and a few more thousands of free independent travellers (FITs), but since March 2020, it has not received a single charter from England. Last season, Tui Airways cancelled its Goa plan due to the third wave of Covid as well as India not issuing e-visas to UK visitors. This season, it had committed to fly four flights a week from next month, but brought down the number to one, with its clients cancelling bookings due to visa-related issues.