Panaji, Dec 31 : Goa's stunning villas which dot the countryside, may well be emerging as the fancy villains in the coastal state's tourism story which has been marred in recent times by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Increasing demand among tourists travelling to Goa in groups, for standalone rental villas and plush bungalows, has led to consternation among the regularised hotel sector, which has now alleged that the proliferation of villas for rent in the state was proving to be a revenue leakage factor for Goa's tourism economy.
The key problem according to president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa president Nitin Shah, is that most villas are registered as domestic units and provide unfair competition to hotels, which are licenced and pay commercial charges for state government-provided utilities and other fees.
"Those who run these villas pay domestic water and power charges, which are substantially subsidised by the government.
They are also not licenced with the Goa Tourism department and therefore skip official due diligence, which commercial hotels have to undergo to meet licencing standards.
The government hardly earns any revenue from a villa as compared to a regular hotel," Shah told IANS.
"There is no revenue accrued to the government in form of GST too.
A registered hotel operator follows all norms and obtains all licences after payment of structured fees," he also said.
Fancy villas, either traditional Goan homes renovated with modern amenities or new swanky bungalows with multiple rooms with plush outfittings, have been particularly in demand among visiting tourists during the pandemic.
After inter-state travel norms were relaxed by states across India, Goa has witnessed a surge in demand for such standalone units, especially by tourists who descend into the state in groups.
Apart from doubling up as relatively cheaper accommodation, villas also offer a sense of privacy as well as hygiene and safety, minimising the possibility of interaction with strangers, streams of house-keeping staff or other guests, as compared to a conventional hotel environment.
Daily rentals for such villas can cost anywhere between Rs.
8,000 to Rs. 1 lakh depending on the quality of amenities, number of rooms and the location of the villa.
A significant number of the villas are 'second home' investments made by investors residing in Indian metros.
In July this year, the Goa Tourism Ministry had initiated a process of registration of unregistered hotels, guest houses and villas in the state to plug the obvious revenue leakage.
Once the new registration system is formalised, renting out such unregistered facilities would be considered illegal and attract a heavy fine, according to Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar.
The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, which represents the interests of registered hoteliers, has also written to the Tourism Ministry, urging the latter to finalise a deadline for registration of such units.
"We have to crack down on this illegality.
There has to be a deadline for registration of such villas and other places which rent out lodging facilities," Shah said.
To back his case, Shah points out to the obvious contradiction in the surge in tourist arrivals to Goa in the festive season -- which Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has pegged in the range of "44 to 45 lakh" -- but adds that out of the 28,000 room nights which are on offer, the occupancy was only around 18,000 room nights.
"Despite the crowds, pricing of hotel rooms is down by 20 to 30 per cent," Shah said.
Villa operators however claim that registration with the government results in harassment by officials, in absence of no clear-cut policy on such hospitality operations.
"Villa rentals also generate a lot of indirect revenue for the government, because guests who hire a villa are well-heeled and spend a lot of money on their Goa outings by dining out, indulging in adventure sports, visiting clubs, etc," says a villa operator who runs a dozen villas in coastal villages like Anjuna and Calangute.
Goa is reckoned as one of the leading beach and nightlife destinations in the country.
In 2019, nearly eight million tourists visited the coastal state. Tourist footfalls dropped in 2020, in the wake of the pandemic, before the festive season between Christmas and New Year appear to have somewhat revived the state's tourism fortunes.