Goa set to launch helicopter tourism


PANAJI – A helipad alongside Panaji’s Mandovi bridge and five more across the state, including at Colva and Old Goa, are set to launch helicopter tourism in Goa.Tourism director Swapnil Naik said the project-mooted unsuccessfully twice before-is banking on ` 3 crore funding from the state and central governments.

“The state government will prepare the infrastructure and will lease it to a company providing helicopter services,” Naik said. The sites identified for the helipads are at Aguada, Ela-Old Goa, Panaji, Mollem, Tiracol and Colva. While the state has already made a budgetary provision of ` 1 crore for this financial year, the tourism director said, “We will also avail a scheme from the union government for funds of ` 2 crore.”

Asked for the pricing of the sight-seeing helicopter rides, Naik said the state will not play a regulatory role. “It will be at the company’s discretion. The state government will give it the freedom to decide on the pricing of packages,” he said.

The helipad at Panaji will be built atop a four-storeyed parking lot to be constructed alongside the Mandovi bridge. The building will have parking facilities for two- and four-wheelers and for heavy vehicles. It will also feature a reception area, cafeteria and counters for the cruise boat operations on the Mandovi River.

Sources said that apart from the six spots mentioned, the tourism department had also shown interest in a helipad at Cabo de Rama. The area, however, is a protected archaeological site and the idea has been shelved in view of the daunting task of getting requisite permissions, sources said.

The state government has been flirting with the idea of helicopter tourism in Goa since half a decade. The concept was first mooted in 2006 when Wilfred de Souza was deputy chief minister and tourism minister.

Private companies approached the government two years ago too with similar proposals. Both times the proposals didn’t take off and were relegated to the backburner. In fact, the sites at Ela-Old Goa and Aguada were mooted in one of the earlier proposals as well.

“The state government is also open to creating a heli-ambulance service if a proposal comes our way,” Naik said.