Now, ride a chopper to Goa casinos, beaches, tourism hubs

Panaji, Jan 28 (IANS) Helicopters will soon ferry gamblers and well-heeled tourists from the Goan mainland to offshore casinos equipped with helipads, while also providing connectivity between the state capital and other tourism hubs and the airport.

B.P Sharma, chairman and managing director of Pawan Hans, a central government-owned helicopter service company which is due to start heli-tourism services in Goa from January 31, also said that a security protocol was evolved with the Goa Police to ensure strict safety and security of tourists and the choppers.

“Presently we are only doing sight-seeing from the top. Later, we will be doing inter-city connectivity from Panaji to Old Goa (a popular heritage church complex). Old Goa to airport. Airport to Panaji and then also to connect some of the hotels and casinos that have the facility of helipads,” Sharma told IANS.

Sharma also said that the commercial launch of the helicopter aerial joy rides over Goa’s tourism hotspots like beaches, backwaters and heritage sites would be on January 31.

The rides, Sharma said, would provide breathtaking and picturesque glimpses of the tropical state from the top. For now the joyrides would start from an existing helipad located near the Aguada fort, 20 km from Panaji, from 10 am to 4 pm. The 15-minute flight in six-seater choppers, would include aerial sortees over Fort Aguada, beaches like Miramar, Candolim, Calangute and Anjuna, as also Panaji, for Rs.3,250 per passenger.

“Goans and tourists will enjoy it very much. It will be a landmark in Goa Tourism. To start with, we are putting two helicopters with six-passenger capacity each and we hope that the business will grow here and if the demand grows we will add more,” Sharma said.

“As of today, we are flying in 21 states. This is the third state where we have come only for tourism purposes,” Sharma said.

Heli-tourism is one of the initiatives of Goa Tourism to broad-base its offerings. A state known more for its beach tourism and night-life, the authorities here are keen on providing a more diverse bouquet of experiences for the more than 400,000 tourists who visit the state every year.

A large chunk of these tourists visit the booming casino industry, which is made up of four operational offshore casinos and nearly a dozen onshore casino operations. Half a million tourists who arrive in Goa are foreigners.

Heli-tourism, according to Sharma, held promise in Goa, something which Pawan Hans is banking on.

“We have taken up this project to add heli-tourism to Goa. In the beginning, we are not looking at any profit out of it. We are doing just cost-to-cost. But in time as business and popularity grows then we will add some more flights,” Sharma said.

Asked about the security measures in place to ensure that the helicopters used for joy-rides are kept secure and there is proper screening of passengers using the facility, Sharma said: “Aviation in India has grown and matured in a big way… Security and flying procedures and handling security and passengers are well defined.”

He also said that a security protocol had been involved with the help of the Goa Police to ensure safety of both the machines and the passengers.

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