First Russian charter lands to chaos outside Goa airport

PANAJI: It was a chaotic scene at the parking lot of the Goa International Airport as the tourist season’s first charter with 520 passengers from Russia landed at 5.15am on Thursday. There were 23 coaches and over 50 taxis jostling for space at the parking lot as they awaited the arrival of the foreign guests.

Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) said despite their requests to authorities, the parking space occupied by the contractor of the grade separator project, which has been under way for over three years, was not freed for parking.

Goa receives charters from Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Kazakhstan, besides a few from Norway, Finland and Iran

President TTAG Savio Messias said they are afraid the scene will turn messy as the season proce and more charters arrive per day. “There will be days when four or five charters land back-to-back. I can’t imagine what the scene will be like then,” Messias said.

Messias said, “Anticipating a problem we had approached the authorities. The project is being undertaken by the state government and recently it told us that nothing can be done about the problem. The airport director said his jurisdiction is only within the airport. The issue was discussed at the previous meeting.”

The TTAG had also approached Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC), the agency executing the project, but it did not respond, Messias said.

The contractor has dumped a lot of material in the parking lot leading to reduced parking space. “Agents are unhappy about this,” the TTAG president said.

What’s worse, Messias said, while the coaches and taxis jammed the parking space, there wasn’t a single police personnel to man the scene. “I was there from 5am to 7pm. I did not see a single policeman,” he said.

“I have already informed the authorities about the situation, and even forwarded photos to tourism department so that some corrective measures are taken, the TTAG president said. But they responded saying it has no say in the matter,” he added.

However, when contacted, tourism minister Manohar Azgaonkar said, “We are delighted that the number of direct flights from Russia to Goa are increasing and each flight will bring in good number of passengers. The safety and security of tourists will always be given top priority and I am sure that they will definitely have an exciting holiday this tourism season.”

Goa on an average receive 2 to 2.5 lakh foreign tourists every season and arrivals peaks in North-December. Goa mostly receive charters from Russian destinations, UK, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Also, a few charters come from Norway, Finland and Iran as well.

During the last season, Goa received 981 charters bringing in 2,47,365 travellers. While some expect the season to be as good as the last year, some agents are worried as their bookings are unimpressive, and feel that the season may end earlier than usual.