The destination, once perceived as a hotspot for Russian tourists, wild parties and hippies is witnessing a gradual makeover and has emerged as preferred destination for families amid the pandemic.
By Vishakha Talreja
The memes on Instagram and Twitter will tell you how Goa has emerged as the most popular destination among domestic travelers ever since the ban on travel was lifted post lockdown. The destination, once perceived as a hotspot for Russian tourists, wild parties and hippies is witnessing a gradual makeover and has emerged as preferred destination for families amid the pandemic.
Hotels of course are not complaining. Not only is this helping them get better occupancies but also has bumped up revenues as families tend to spend more time at the hotel and on F&B. Meanwhile room rates too are crawling back to pre-pandemic average. Every year about two lakh foreign tourists come to Goa on chartered flights. This year even though this chunk has been missing, hotels clocked occupancies of 70 per cent in November to January period.
“We are seeing huge family groups driving down to Goa. About 35 per cent of our guests are from Maharashtra and Bangalore now who are taking drivecations to the beach destination. So there are groups coming with kids, grandparents and house helps too,” explains Ranju Singh, Complex General manager of Novotel Goa Candolim and Novotel Goa Resort & Spa. Looking at the growing number of young guests, Novotel Candolim has added fun slides to kids’ swimming pool giving them a mini water park experience, however is waiting for government permission to operate.
Similarly DoubleTree By Hilton in Panaji is offering activities for kids and families seeing a surge in bookings from family groups. “The fourth quarter has been a remarkably strong period. Domestic travel is rebounding and the lockdown fatigue has led to many families booking holidays to safe hotels. We have curated itineraries that include immersive experiences for families, especially kids,” says Melville John, General Manager, DoubleTree By Hilton Goa- Panaji.
Hyatt Hotels which runs three properties in Goa- Hyatt Centric Goa, Grand Hyatt Goa and Alila Diwa Goa- has witnessed a similar trend. “The destination has surely seen a strong demand from domestic travelers, especially from families looking at celebrating a birthday or anniversary away from home, and also from professionals who want break from work from home. Before the pandemic, international travellers approximately contributed up to 35 percent at 5-star hotels in Goa. The gap is obviously there as foreign travel remains restricted, but an increased demand from large family groups is helping hotels recover,” said Jaco Le Roux, Area Vice President, South India, Hyatt Hotels. Alila Diwa Goa offers a mini theatre projecting animated movies for the kids in the afternoon, while Grand Hyatt Goa has an adventure park for kids.
ITC Grand Goa has seen occupancies peak in December. The property is offering ample activities to kids and adults to spend time outdoors on the beach. Anil Chadha, COO of ITC Hotels points at busier days ahead for hotels. “The vaccine brings good joy and is helping decrease the anxiety among travelers. So we are moving in the right direction. We have reason to be optimistic about the future,” he says.
Goa for sure has emerged as a year-round destination for family vacationers.
(Vishakha Talreja is a Delhi-based Travel, Food and Lifestyle Writer. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the position or police of the Financial Express Online.)