The Mumbai attacks have cast a shadow over the Indian resort state of Goa, with its famous end-of-year party season likely to be hit as foreigners stay away and security is tightened.
Some 400,000 overseas tourists flock to the former Portuguese colony every year, particularly for Christmas and New Year's Eve, escaping colder climes to soak up the sun and then dance until dawn on its long sandy beaches.
AdvertisementBut there are concerns about the sharp dip in visitors at what is normally the busiest time of year for the hoteliers, restaurateurs and beach hut owners.
"There has been a 20 percent decrease in tourist arrivals," said Ralf D'Souza, president of the Tour and Travel Association of Goa.
Some are domestic travellers, including the well-heeled from Mumbai 600 kilometres to the north, who head to the western Indian state for weekend breaks. Others are big-spending foreigners.
"There have been cancellations from Russia and the United Kingdom, which make up much of the foreign clientele," D'Souza told AFP.
A number of foreign governments, including Britain, Australia and the United States, amended their travel advice for India after the November attacks, which left 172 people dead, including nine gunmen, and injured nearly 300.
Israel has warned that year-end celebrations in Goa "could be the target of attacks by Islamist extremists" and urged its citizens to stay away. Russia issued a similar warning to its nationals last week.
Yet even before the Mumbai attacks, Goa, made famous as a stop-off on the hippie trail in the 1960s and 1970s and whose party culture is still a big draw, was suffering from a damaged reputation.
In February, the body of a 15-year-old British girl, Scarlett Keeling, was discovered on a Goa beach.
She was later found to have taken a cocktail of drink and drugs before her death, sparking concerns about the easy availability of illegal substances and the safety of foreign travellers.
Tourist authorities and police launched a crackdown when the season began in October, but were then hit by allegations that the son of a state government minister raped a German teenager.
The case was later dropped, with the alleged victim's mother claiming she was pressured into doing so by the authorities.
State tourism minister Francisco Pacheco said that any attack on Goa would be the final nail in its image as a carefree paradise destination.
"We don't mind tourists not coming for this season if they are wary of security but we don't want a terror attack to happen. That will entirely finish Goa's image," he added.
With that in mind, and a recent warning in a leaked memo from the chief minister that the resort could be targeted by Al-Qaeda, government officials have been busy tightening defences.
State police have enlisted the help of the Indian navy, coastguard and marine police to patrol the shores, mindful that the 10 Islamist extremists who attacked Mumbai arrived by sea.
Bunkers have been constructed on beaches and the popular night-time tourist markets have been told to increase vigilance and install closed-circuit television cameras as they may be targeted.
Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations have not been cancelled but revellers are being told to expect rigid security, and officials are yet to decide on whether to allow beach parties.
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