Panaji, Feb 19 (IANS) The recent crisis in the sunny land of the pharaohs has forced tourists headed to Egypt and other countries in north Africa to other beach destinations in Asia, including Goa, officials here said.
Speaking to IANS Saturday, the state’s Director for Tourism Swapnil Naik said there was an approximately 15 percent increase in room occupancy expected ever since the civil resistance against the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt started simmering in January this year.
“Yes, the industry has confirmed that there is likely to be a 15 percent increase in room occupancy, as travellers who were earlier booked to destinations like Egypt and Tunisia, are now headed to Goa. A representative from the travel industry also informed us that European tourists heading to Tunisia may now be headed to Goa,” Naik said.
The official also said that the state government was in talks with the union home ministry to relax visa norms temporarily for the inbound tourists, after their earlier scheduled tourism itineraries in Egypt were cancelled due to the revolution there.
“We are making efforts to approach the central government officials to temporarily relax visa norms,” he said.
Ralph de Souza, spokesperson for the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), said that the Egypt revolution had triggered a favourable spin off for Goa as far as tourism was concerned.
“With the recent situation in Egypt, tour operators needed to provide alternate destinations, among which Goa has been lucky to see an increase of tourists, especially from Russia,” de Souza said.
He, however, said that the central government needed to take a relook at the new more stringent visa regime which was resulting in a fall in the number of tourists from western Europe, who have conventionally preferred Goa’s beaches.
“The Egyptian windfall is a one-off. Overall, Goa has seen a fall in (foreign) tourist arrival due to the new visa norms. There has been 30 percent fall from western Europe travellers this year. We are losing out on high spending tourists because of the strict visa norms,” de Souza said.