Bus, air fares soar as tourists head to Goa for Diwali

PANAJI: With Goa turning out to be a hot destination for mini-vacations this Diwali weekend, bus and flight fares to Goa from Bangalore, Mumbai and other major cities have skyrocketed to more than double the regular weekend rates. While travelling by rail is out of the question, with triple-digit ‘regret’ waiting lists for trains plying on Friday, November 1, revelers are left with the options of coughing up exorbitant bus fares, or car-pooling into Goa.Bangalore-based architect Ria Mathew was planning to spend her long Diwali weekend withfriends in Goa. “My firm has given employees the day off on Friday as well, and most of us had also planned to take leave on Monday, to make it a four-day trip. But the air tickets are so expensive; each of us would end up paying over 20,000 just for transport. We gave it up as a bad idea and are coming to Goa this weekend instead-round-trip flight tickets are available for 9,000, even though we’re making the booking with only three days to spare” she says.

Symbiosis university student Ashwin Gopinath was taken aback when he logged on to book bus tickets to Goa for the Diwali weekend. “Travelling by bus is usually quite cheap, but to come to Goa on November 1, we will have to shell out 2,200 per person for a one-way ticket. All the inexpensive bus operators are already full,” complains Ashwin. “It is so much cheaper to drive down from Pune to Goa. With five people sharing diesel expenses, the trip would only cost around 800 per head, both ways,” he adds.

Goans looking to head out for the weekend are also getting a raw deal.

Margao resident Rajeshwar Kadam expressed his disappointment over the lack of any regulation over the inter-state bus fares of private operators.

“I was told to book bus tickets now to avail of the current booking rates as the fare was to be hiked soon. I was told that the fare for the Goa-Mumbai trip would cost at least Rs 1,700 from November 1. The fares keep on increasing without any justified reason,” Kadam said.

Industry experts observe that the Diwali rush to Goa is a fairly recent phenomenon, as people traditionally consider Diwali a ‘family festival’, preferring to spend Lakshmi Puja and Diwali day at home, or visiting relatives.

“Today, the younger generation seems to grab at any opportunity to make a weekend getaway, and the Diwali holidays are no different,” says Travel Corporation of India vice president Rohit Walter. “Travelling during the festive weekend will be expensive, and we cannot blame airlines for taking advantage of the demand and hiking their fares, considering the slump in the economy,” he adds.

Travel and Tourism Association of Goa vice president Nilesh Shah echoes this and says, “It is ultimately a matter of demand and supply, and bus operators try to make up for all the revenue they lose during the off-season. Their business also depends on the goodwill of the passenger, and in the long run, they may pay the price for hiking fares unreasonably at times like these.”