Russian tourists mean big money for Goa, but there's a dark side to it

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Goa | Photo: AFP

Panaji: Goa considers Russian tourists as high spenders, however, some of these tourists also venture into businesses like operating hotels and even of them have made 'drugs supply' as their income source.

The coastal state receives a high footfall of foreign tourists, especially Russians. And, some of them are nabbed from time to time by the police for allegedly selling narcotics or for their involvement in online gambling.

Russian nationals also operate restaurants in the state, where the foreigners usually flock. "They do the business using the name of locals, who rent them the premises to operate. There are many such Russians doing business in Goa," a local resident from the coastal belt said.

As per the official records, in 2019, about 71,27,000 domestic tourists arrived in Goa, while 9,31,000 foreign tourists visited the state. Around 90,000 Russian tourists visit Goa annually. However, the number has dropped significantly in the last three years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Goa's Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte had on record stated that the coastal state's tourism is predominantly dependent on the UK and Russia, and some parts of Europe. "The government is taking all steps to get a good footfall with good spending," he had said.

The Goa government had taken several efforts to resolve the e-visa issue to woo these high spending tourists, who wish to come to Goa.

Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) President Nilesh Shah told IANS that presently around 3,000 Russian tourists come to Goa every week and the number may increase in the coming days. "The Russians have started coming back to Goa," he said.

According to the sources, on an average, a Russian tourist spends Rs 2-3 lakh in Goa, which helps to boost the economy this 'tiny' state. Russians take villas for rent while some of them stay in hotels.

Though their visit helps the economy, but some of them, who get engaged in illicit trades, forces the police to pull up their socks to control on drug menace.

There are many incidents where Russian tourists visiting the state were arrested for growing marijuana in their rented premises.

In 2018, a Russian couple was arrested for growing marijuana inside their rented apartment in the beach village of Anjuna in North Goa.

In the following year in 2019, a four-member Russian gang was arrested on the same charges and in 2020, yet another Russian national was arrested from Morjim in North Goa for growing marijuana in rented premises.

These incidents had left locals wondering how they (the tourists) were growing marijuana plants in their rooms.

"Some of these foreign tourists visit Goa with the intention to do illicit trade of drugs. They rent a room for a long stay and get involved in this trade. They sell it to their own people visiting here and also to others. Some of them also become guides tourists having same nationality, and make a way to supply them drugs. It becomes easy for them," a police officer on condition of anonymity said.

On September 29, 2022, Goa Police arrested one Russian national for allegedly possessing 900 grams of Hashish Oil valued at Rs 9,00,000. The accused person was identified as Maxim Makarov, 38, who was residing at Morjim.

A week earlier, on September 22, two Russians were arrested by Goa police for their alleged involvement in 'online gambling'.

According to sources, the tourists who come here and stay for longer periods get involved in such trades after they become friendly with locals and become familiar with local destinations.


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