Goa tourism could catapult to a higher level when second airport opens

File image of the Goa night sky (Source: Unsplash)

File image of the Goa night sky (Source: Unsplash)

Goa’s Mopa International Airport is expected to be operational in August 2022, GMR infrastructure said, declaring a profit of Rs 58 crore for the third quarter of the current financial year.

The earnings were the first financial results declared by the group after splitting the airport business from its power, road and other infrastructure businesses.

GMR, which has received investments from French company Groupe ADP, is the operator of the Delhi and Hyderabad airports in addition to having won bids to develop Mopa in Goa and Bhogapuram in Andhra Pradesh.

It recently won the right to operate Medan airport in Indonesia.

GMR’s airport business is in the middle of an expansion drive that includes massive capacity augmentation in Delhi along with the construction of a runway and India’s first elevated taxiway. It also includes increasing capacity at Hyderabad airport to utilise the full potential of the runway.

Along with this expansion drive, the most interesting domestic project the company has is the greenfield project in Mopa, the civilian airport that is to come up in North Goa and the state’s second airport after the existing one in Dabolim, a naval air field.

Goa the party state

If there is one place in the country both the young and old alike plan to visit or just make plans to visit, it is Goa! The pristine beaches, cheap alcohol and self-sufficient resorts have been attractive for Indian tourists all along.

Visits to Goa have only increased in the past couple of years, backed by an increasingly young population with high disposable incomes, more flights and availability of more hotel rooms in the state.

As more and more corporate entities look to bond again, the state that has been ranking high for off-sites will see more traffic again.

Goa is so popular that during the three months ended December, the hotel industry recorded higher revenue than in pre-Covid times, an analysis by the Taj Hotel Group shows. The Taj Group, for example, got a premium of 39 percent in Goa when compared to pre-Covid rentals.

Recent trends have shown that revenge tourism is for real! Goa, though, has one challenge – connectivity! Konkan Railway and a strong road network from neighbouring states are still restricted in terms of getting tourists on board — the real connectivity for most is via flights from across the country and that is precisely where the challenge lies.

Over the years, Goa has seen connectivity with many Tier-II cities like Nagpur, Indore, Surat, Kochi, Raipur, Lucknow and Amritsar, among others. Traditionally, connectivity had been restricted to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru primarily with non-daily flights plying from Pune, Kolkata and Chennai!

Current challenges in Dabolim

The current airport in Dabolim is owned and operated by the Indian Navy. The facility also combines as a shore- based training facility for fighter planes. While the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has built a new terminal, there continue to be challenges in handling passengers at bottlenecks like security points and boarding gates. The reason? Limited watch hours. The time of the day when the airport is available for operations are the watch hours. These could be dependent on the infrastructure at the airport (E.g.: Lack of lights could mean watch hours end at sunset) or military needs.

Dabolim airport is closed for operations by commercial airlines from 08.30 to 12.30 hours. Additionally, an hour in the afternoon is dedicated for naval requirements. Lack of a full-length parallel taxiway leading to reduced runway movements per hour and absence of sufficient bays to cater to the traffic add to the challenges in Goa.

Mopa airport

The second airport in Mopa has had a long gestation period. From establishing feasibility to waiting for the verdict of the Supreme Court and then negotiating the pandemic! But work has picked up pace. As of January 2022, 60 percent of the work was complete. It was at 54 percent complete at the end of December and 43.8 percent at the end of October.

While Goa has consistently been among the top 10 airports in the country by domestic traffic, last year it was at number eight – ahead of Pune and behind Ahmedabad. It was just short of Ahmedabad in terms of domestic traffic but in the last four financial years, the airport has been growing at a faster rate. In FY17, Goa’s traffic increased by 27 percent and was ranked higher than Ahmedabad in domestic traffic. In all subsequent years since then, until the pandemic hit, Goa’s domestic traffic has been growing at double digits.

Mopa will get along with it the capacity Dabolim is missing. More importantly it will allow 24×7 operations and will allow airlines to better schedule flights in line with check-in and check-out timings of hotels and not as per airport availability.

Goa has seen regular charters in the past, primarily from Russia and Israel. While Dabolim has had space constraints, Mopa will not have those to begin with, allowing additional charters that will attract planeloads of tourists!

Hiccups remain but benefits extend to entire ecosystem

The last revision of Route Dispersal Guidelines saw Delhi-Goa being included among Category I routes for airlines. This means that for every Delhi-Goa flight an airline operates, it has to operate additional flights to Category II and IIA routes, which may not always be profitable.

Mopa airport is located far up north in the state of Goa, away from the luxurious resorts that dot the beaches of the southern part of the state. An express highway is on the cards; it will link the two parts, but that is a year away, if not longer. The existing airport in Dabolim will not be shut and will continue operations.

Mopa airport will provide a huge fillip to tourism and allied industries of Goa, in turn giving a boost to the economy. And its location could mean that the southern part of Maharashtra also benefits from tourism!