Panaji, Feb 12: A record 1.5 crore tourists arrived in Goa by the time coronavirus pandemic struck the country, Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar said on Friday.
Ajgaonkar said that the figure was arrived at following a survey by global consultancy firm KPMG engaged by the Goa government for the formulation of a tourism master plan.
"KPMG survey said that 1.5 crore tourists came to Goa, both national and international," Ajgaonkar told a press conference in Panaji.
According to government records, Goa's population is around 1.5 million.
The Minister said that Tourism Department records initially recorded around 88 lakh tourist footfalls. But a subsequent survey revealed additional tourists staying put in unregistered hotels, guesthouses and other lodgings operated by app-based aggregators.
"Many of these hotels are unregistered. They should not be taking bookings without registering with the Tourism Department," Ajgaonkar said, adding that such bookings were illegal because it did not bring the government any revenue.
"The Tourism Department did not earn from these bookings. But people earned money. This is illegal," Ajgaonkar said.
Last month, the Goa Assembly had debated the tourist figures put forth by the state, especially after the pandemic waned and travel restrictions were gradually lifted.
While Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had said that 40-45 lakh tourists had arrived in Goa after the lifting of travel restrictions, Ajgaonkar said in a written reply tabled during the session that only 9.71 lakh tourists had arrived in the state.
Goa is regarded as one of the leading beach and nightlife tourism destinations in the country.