PANAJI: Those in the tourism business, especially shack owners, reeling from the drop in tourist arrivals this season, and had contemplated shutting shop by mid-January, have now decided to give business another chance. Cruz Cardozo, president of shack owners welfare society (SOWS), told TOI that only three-four private shacks in Agonda have shut down, so far. “There’s a possibility we will wind up operations by March-April,” he says. Walking across the beach stretch in the North, as of now, business continues as usual in areas like Arambol, Morjim, Ashvem and Mandrem. In fact, some locals have even come up with alternative, novel business ideas, in a bid to earn a quick buck.
They have set up one or two “super markets”, one of which functions from a small tin room, and are both stocked with tinned food, beer, other beverages and other items that foreigners patronize, especially those who stay for long periods in rented apartments in the state. At the entrance of Arambol beach, Anita Naik, a house wife is deep in conversation with three other women who have taken a break from selling imitation jewellery. Anita sells tender coconuts which she buys from her brother-in-law who buys them wholesale from the Mapusa market. “These days I consider myself lucky if I’m able to sell even 10 tender coconuts. I don’t reduce the price, because if I do I’ll be left with no profit margin,” she says grumbling about the Russian tourists who “haggle to pay 30 for a middle-sized tender coconut”.
Down South, beaches popular among Russian and European tourists, are coming to terms with the poor business this season. A manager of a private shack at Palolem beach said that they have not sacked any employee, nor reduced rates of beach huts even though business isn’t great. Beach huts are available between the range of 2000 and 4000, and during the peak season, the price soars. “Some may drop rates slightly, but not many,” he says.
A water sports operator at Palolem beach, Sanjay Pagi, says that despite the shortage of tourists, those in the tourism business are not inclined to give up. “What will I do sitting at home, it’s better to come here and wait,” he says, beckoning prospective customers passing by. Agreeing that something needs to be done to attract tourists, Cardozo says, “We need beach infrastructure. Beaches like Mobor do not have a proper access or space for parking. We are surviving only thanks to repeat clients, and weekend domestic tourists.”
UK citizen Keith Brazil, who has been coming to Goa for the past 25 years with his wife, has issues of his own that he would like sorted out. “It would make our travel to Goa much easier and less expensive if the visa on arrival (VoA) facility is extended to the UK as well. I have to spend three days in London to get a visa and have to travel all the way from the countryside,” he says. Visa hassles aside, he says he won’t ever give up on the state for just one reason. “I love Goa,” he smiles, as he exits a shack with his wife after a hearty lunch.