Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Arab Spring: Occupancy at hotels in Goa, Kerala beaches up 20% as international tourists seek safer destinations

Arab Tourists in Kerala Beach

The Arab Spring has had a pleasant impact on the Indian winter. Beaches in Goa and Kerala are overflowing with tourists who have been

 weaned away from the warm shores of Egypt, where the new conservative government run by the Muslim Brotherhood has clamped down on beach tourism.

Occupancy in hotels in Goa and parts of Kerala this winter is 20% higher than in 2011, with tourists from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries pouring in. "This is bonus traffic for the two destinations," says Vivek Nair, vice chairman and managing director of The Leela Group, which runs luxury hotels in Goa and Kerala. Occupancy at those properties have risen 20% and rates have gone up by 10-12% year-on-year, he adds.
Tourists from West Asia in Athirappilly

Goa expects to welcome more than 5 lakh tourists this year, compared to 456,000 last year and 445,000 in 2010. Tourist arrivals from traditional markets such as the UK, France and Germany have dropped significantly since the slowdown of 2008. Local hotelier Ralph de Souza, who is also president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, says business for his hotels is up 15-20% this year. "This is helping us keep our head above water," he says.
Nikhil Desai, MD of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation, says that average occupancy across Goa in the peak winter months, barring of course the last 15 days of December, has been 75%, which he expects will rise to above 90% this year. "There is a much larger potential from these markets that we need to tap in future," he says.
The tourism department is promoting a host of events, including the already popular Sunburn music festival, to provide a more diversified tourist experience. "At this rate, we will need to ramp up luxury hotel rooms in Goa," says de Souza.
Beaches of Egypt on the Mediterranean and Red Sea such as Naama Beach in Sharm el-Sheikh have been popular with tourists from Russia, and the CIS and Eastern European states. In a recent report, international hotel consultancy HVS said that with the recent troubles in the Middle East, countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan that used to attract a fair number of western tourists and also Russians tour groups, are no longer seen as safe destinations for tourism. Egypt received 14.1 million tourists in 2010, but the number is expected to fall to 12 million in 2012. "Large tour operators are looking for alternative destinations and India will be a beneficiary," says Kaushik Varadharajan, managing director at HVS India.
Arab Tourists in Munnar

Kuoni, for instance, has started a charter from Russia to Tiruvananthapuram from November through April. This will bring in 200 people every 13 days. In Goa, Kuoni's partners operate one flight every day. "We've seen a 10% increase in our charter business this season. We have been able to convince operators to fly in charters to India from different parts of Russia," says Dipak Deva, CEO, Kuoni Destination Management, India & South Asia. What is also fuelling demand for India is better connectivity - Air Arabia and Qatar Airways, for instance, have daily flights connecting Goa and Trivandrum with these countries.
 The opportunity from the decline of the Egypt and other West Asian markets, say experts, could be as large as a million tourists a year and many countries in Asia, including Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia and others will be eyeing this pie.

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A travel and tourism enthusiast, travel writer, interested to explore unexplored locations around world. Love to share the tourism updates, news and developments happening in my native place - Kerala.


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