Even as Goa's tourism industry is waiting to start this year's tourist season with the arrival of the first international chartered flight mid-October, the travel companies feel that the lack of infrastructure at the airport might be a dampener this season.
The first chartered flight to Goa will arrive from Moscow (Russia) on October 16.
Pegasus Chartered flight will be the first one (this year) to land at state's lone Dabolim airport,Ernest Dias, Executive member of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) said on Wednesday.
The state Tourism Department has painted a rosy picture claiming a 15 per cent rise in the tourist arrivals and subsequent growth in the chartered flight arrivals.
However, the tour and travel companies handling the chartered flights claim that the existing facilities at Dabolim airport, combined with the developments in the international airlines front will cause a slump in the flight arrivals in the state.
"The number of chartered flights arriving in Goa may be less this time due to various factors. One of them is that Dabolim airport is still undergoing expansion," Harpal Singh, General Manager, Minar Travels (India) Pvt Ltd said.
According to him, most of the chartered flight operators prefer to fly wide-body aircraft, so that they could carry maximum passengers cutting the cost.
"Almost 90 per cent of the chartered flights are wide-body aircraft and the parking facility required for such aircraft is running short at the Dabolim airport," Singh said.
From the three parking lots offered during last year, this year the airport has only two such lots as the expansion work is still on, Singh said.
Goa receives around 4 lakh foreign arrivals annually, of which 1.25 lakh were Russians followed by Britons, who accounted for the second highest arrivals.
According to the state tourism department 1,025 chartered flights arrived in the last season.
In another development on the chartered flight front, Russian aircraft carrier- Aeroflot, has merged with Rufiyaa Airlines by signing a code sharing agreement due to which both the airlines will carry the passengers in single aircraft to Goa.
"This would reduce the number of arrivals from Russia," Singh said.
However, state Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar has refused to acknowledge this possible slump in the chartered arrivals this season.
He said that more number of chartered flights are expected to arrive this year due to extensive publicity campaign undertaken by the state.
"The number of chartered flights will touch 1,250 to 1,300 mark this season. We have been holding extensive campaigns inviting people," he said.
The minister has also expected growth in the foreign tourist arrivals.
"The overall growth in the tourism sector will be around 15 per cent," he said.
The ministry is also banking on the falling rupee against dollar to attract more tourists as the destination would be cheaper compared to the other European competitors, he said.