The Crimean crisis, Russia's falling rouble and stopping of tourist charter flights from international destinations might prove to be a dampener for the much-hyped New Year party scene in Goa this time, fear tourism industry experts.
While the ongoing St Francis Xavier exposition might to a certain extent off-set the impact of the decrease in tourist footfalls, the industry is not expecting many visitors to turn up for beach parties, which are tailor-made for New Year revellers.
The tourism industry's major backbone -- Russian travellers -- has been hit by falling rouble and sanctions on Russia due to Ukraine conflict.
"What we have heard is that the charter flights from Moscow will stop coming after January 15. The New Year is grim for us. There will be hardly any party scene," said Cruz Cardoso, President, Shack Owners Welfare Society, a union of beach shack operators in Goa.
The deserted shacks, thinning crowd on beaches, and stringent government rules extracting more taxes this year have made business inviable, according to him.
Cardoso fears that few shacks might wind up soon after the New Year due to lack of business.
He said majority of the total 350 beach shacks spread across the state are currently doing just 75 per cent of the expected business, and it may go further south in coming days.
Goa has been a major party destination attracting lakhs of tourists to usher in New Year.
The 105-km-long beachline turns into a party spot on the New Year eve, with night-long revelry planned for visitors.
"You might get domestic tourists from cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad and other two-tier cities for the parties.
"But the season does not look promising. The hotel occupancies have remained low right from October this year.
The only hope we see is in the form of Visa on Arrival facility extended to various countries. That too, the facility should function properly," said Ralf D Souza, a hospitality sector expert and spokesman for Tours and Travels Association of Goa (TTAG). .
D'Souza said that Russia-Ukraine crisis coupled with the devaluation of rouble has made the foreign travel expensive by 30-35 per cent.
This is the main reason why the numbers from Russia are falling. The occupancy in the state in last 15 days was low by 27 per cent, he said.
While State Tourism Department in the past had boasted of its efforts to bring in tourists from new markets, D'Souza pointed out that the charter flights from countries like Germany, Sweden and Switzerland have stopped arriving due to less demand from tourists there, contributing to the down slide.
"The number of Western European tourists coming to Goa has gone down. We need to focus our promotion vigorously in these targeted markets," he said.
Mark Mendes, a senior tourism expert and member of State Level Tourism Marketing Committee, said the number of tourists might remain same on paper due to ongoing exposition of relics of St Francis Xavier, but those actually turning up for parties may be less.
"There will be a drop by almost 12 per cent in arrivals from Russia. Anybody related to beach tourism will be affected this year," he said.
Mendes, who is working in close coordination with the State Tourism department, said they had foreseen this scenario which prompted the department to run promotional campaigns in countries like Japan, Korea, France and Switzerland.
Attempts were made to activate new markets, he said adding research indicates that travellers from these countries have started showing interest in visiting Goa.
The state tourism department has put a brave face claiming that the tourist season is doing fairly well.
"Goa is the place to be in for New Year 2015," commented Director of Tourism, Amey Abhyankar.
The season has been faring well and we recently had a record 13.5 per cent increase in tourist arrivals for October month, he stated.
The Visa On Arrival facility at Dabolim airport, launched recently will further facilitate arrivals of foreign tourists for the New Year, he said.
Goa is also hosting a large number of festivals in January 2015 that will definitely bring in both international visitors and domestic tourists, Abhyankar said.
"For the Exposition, which culminates on January 4, 2015, alone, we have estimated a figure of five million tourists visiting Goa during the 43-day event.
"With Carnival, Shigmo and the long line up of exciting festivals starting January 2015, the footfalls will see a surge," he added.
Responding to worries of beach shack owners, he said the festive season is just picking up and the department is certain that shack operators will have a busy time in the weeks ahead.