Since getting dunked by the vagaries of the tourist economy, water sports operators in Goa, who are seeing a slow season, are looking for new targets.
They are hoping the department of tourism starts a centre to organise watersports tournaments and give Goa a fillip in this sector.
Goa’s water sports operators have mastered the art of parasailing and are attracting tourists from overseas and other states in the country. In the past, the business would bring in about ` 1 lakh a day shared by the operators. Now they say business is slow and yet to pick up.
Watersports was first introduced by the Taj Hotel on the Sinquerim beach for its guests in the early 1990s, inform villagers operating water sports equipment. Since then it has helped boost the local coastal economy by breathing more life and adding colour to tourism. Now Goa is offering parasailing as a lucrative water sports business along its beaches.
In the past, the water sports business was disorganised, and touts would rule the roost. “The touts would hang out at the entrance to the beach, approach the tourists and charge them double the actual rates,” explains Mr Mauvin D’Souza. Now all the watersports operators get an equal share of the business and the owners are in attendance.
For nearly four years, the operators were facing difficulties in running the business. The sand on Sinquerim beach disappeared and rocks were jutting out on account of the half sunken River Princess. With its removal, the beach is being restored back to its lost glory, say operators. The beach is regularly cleaned by them with the help of Taj Hotel and the tourism department.
“Our main targets are customers from the Taj hotel and we provide them quality rides with safety gear in place — from life jackets to life guards and speed boats,” says Mr Peter D’Souza. Operators like Mr D’Souza were the first to introduce winch parasailing.
Parasailing offers an incredible experience to the tourists. As you soar in the air and feel the wind on your face, the excitement kicks in. Parasailing is without a doubt one of the best ways to see Goa beaches, says Ms Smity Banerjee, who was with her family enjoying the rides.
After decades of windsurfing, kite boarding and surfing around the world, Mr Govi, a north Indian tourist, is in love with Goan water sports, because Goa beaches is everything what other beaches have not. Mr Govi can do it on any type of water, it doesn’t hurt his 65-year-old joints, and he says it only requires a joy for water sports. He says parasailing is seeing shacks on the beach from the air about 100 metres high and getting a glimpse of the seas below as the birds see it.
Talking about his overseas experiences, he says, the fancy jet skies were a $50 a ride, compared to Goa at ` 500 you get the same feeling for lesser. Each tourist spends an estimated ` 1,000 a day on watersports.
The operators have some embarrassing grievances. For the want of public toilets on the beach, they send the tourists to Calangute beach. A sulabh toilet and changing room is needed at Sinquerim beach. Citing the rush of visitors to the beach, the operators suggest the government use the vacant land adjacent to Taj hotel for parking.
In the south too, the water sports activity has started on a slow mode, the tourist flow has yet to pick up. “Our programme has been developed to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, ability or situation, can get involved and become more active in the sport,” says Mr James Fernandes of Colva Water Sports Association that makes up 16 operators.
“Tourists ask a lot of questions especially on safety factors and the difference between beach and winch parasailing. After they are convinced they fill the declaration form,” says Mr Fernandes. For the beach parasailing, an operator works on parachute so that it lands safely on the beach. And for winch parasailing the parachute lands on the boat automatically. The prices for the rides are fixed by the association and are reasonable for the tourists.
The overheads are high. Each operator employs on an average six workers and it goes up to 30. They are paid not less than ` 10,000. The high cost of maintenance and spare parts is eating into their profits, they say. The watersports products are supplied by Yamaha and Volvo Penta. The maintenance cost for each of them runs up to ` 25,000 to ` 30,000, says Mr Mauvin.
The good news for them is that in spite of the slow start, foreign tourists are coming back to Sinquerim beach, as they had shied away earlier because of the River Princess.
To obtain a license for water sports, an approval from the Captain of Ports is needed. After the CoP’s approval, the insurance certificate is procured. They pay a fee to the tourism department to obtain the license.
To enhance the water sports activities, the tourism department is urged to set up a centre to improve the state’s growing status as a place of sporting excellence where top-class coastal activities are available for residents and visitors.
Virtually every type of water sport is available on the beaches and most hotels provide extensive facilities. There are jet skis, water skis, wave runners, banana boats, snorkelling equipment and dolphin site seeing, and the tourists’ favourite, parasailing.
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