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Weak rupee, Egypt crisis could mean rollicking time for Goa

Chartered flights may increase 34% from last year as more Russian tourists come calling

Aneesh Phadnis  |  Mumbai 

This year, chartered flights to Goa are expected to be 34 per cent more than last winter, as the rupee's depreciation has made the Indian state an attractive holiday destination for foreigners.

Also, more Russian tourists are expected to come calling as a political crisis in Eygpt has made that country a less preferred holiday spot.

The state received its first chartered flight, carrying 235 Russian passengers, on Sunday.

"We are expecting 1,400 flights this tourist season," said Goa Airport Director M Suresh. " About 70 per cent of the flights are expected from Russia. The Customs and immigration department has increased its manpower to handle the extra flow of tourists till March. A visa-on-arrival scheme will also be implemented in Goa, from December-end or January."

Last year, the state had handled 1,044 international chartered flights.

Aloo Gomes Periera, chief operating officer (charters), Trail Blazer Tours, said: "We are expecting 20 per cent growth in tourist arrivals. There has been a spurt in bookings from Russia and CIS countries. Bookings from the UK were slow initially but are picking up now. Russian tourists have taken advantage of the fall seen in the rupee's value in recent times. Also, the crisis in Eygpt may have led to an increase in bookings. Another interesting trend this year is that tourists arriving on chartered flights are not restricting their trip to Goa. They are also touring Delhi-Agra-Jaipur over 11-14 days."

"Apart from Russia, we have bookings from Sweden, Finland, UK and Kazakhstan," said Ernest Dias, vice-president (Goa) of Sita Travels, the in-bound division of Kuoni Group. "The crisis in Egypt will stimulate tourist arrivals in Goa. In fact, the first group of tourists of chartered flights were flown in to Goa by Anex Tour, a Russian operator promoting Egyptian holidays."

Charter operators are also flying in bigger and wide-bodied planes that carry more passengers.

Arjun Sharma, managing director of Le Passage to India, said: "For the first time, our partners, TUI UK, will be flying the Boeing Dreamliner 787 to Goa. TUI is the first British carrier to take delivery of this aircraft and Goa has been chosen as the first long-haul destination for the aircraft this winter. This aircraft has a capacity of 291, including 47 premium-class seats. They will fly twice a week to Goa, enhancing the growth of business and tourism here."

Data from Goa's tourism department show the state received 450,000 foreign tourists in 2012, a slight increase from 445,000 the previous year.

The Russians tourists, accounting for over 30 per cent of all arrivals, top the list. The British (26 per cent) and the Germany (seven per cent) follow.

Despite its popularity with foreign tourists, Goa is not among the top 10 recipients of visitors in the country. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan were ahead of it in 2012.

Travel experts say one of the reasons for Goa's poor ranking is it is a seasonal destination, with most foreign tourists arriving between October and March. Also, compared with other states, it lacks international connectivity Qatar Airways is the only foreign airline flying to the state. Other tourists who do not take chartered flights fly in via Mumbai.

Last year, Virgin Atlantic Airlines said it was planning to start flights to Goa. Air India, too, is considering a Moscow-Delhi-Goa flight to cater to Russian tourists. "The government policy on group visas and the visa-on-arrival scheme will help boost traffic to Goa," an expert said.

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First Published: Wed, October 16 2013. 00:43 IST