With Russia lifting its travel ban on Turkey, 25 charter flights to Goa cancelled; ‘Quality’ Russian holidayers went elsewhere, rues TTAG
PANJIM: Turkey is Goa’s new competitor for a slice of the Russian tourism pie. After a good record in the season’s first four months, an estimated 25 Russian charter flights were cancelled as the Russians returned to Turkey, that was a favoured destination in the past.
Nearly a year after strained bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey, the former, late last year, lifted the travel ban to its neighbouring country known for its warm beaches. This has posed a serious threat to Goa’s tourism industry that has already been complaining of lean seasons in the last two years.
Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) asserted that bookings have declined this season in view of renewal of ties between Russia and Turkey. Foreseeing that Russian visitors could this time exceed total arrivals recorded during the last season, TTAG President Savio Messias said Goa, however, lacked ‘quality’ Russian holidayers.
“We had the highest number of Russian arrivals but the problem is that we are getting budget tourists. Not only their stay period but their spending capacity has also dropped. This has impacted stakeholders, who are heavily dependent on this nationality as their arrivals and expenses recorded an all time high till some time back,” he said.
What upset the ongoing tourist season scheduled to end on May 10, is some chartered companies having reduced flights to Goa as Russians are returning to their traditional holiday hub. The reason is ‘all inclusive hotels’ and ‘all inclusive resorts’.
“Most hotels/resorts in Turkey, owned by Russian settlers, are ‘all inclusive’. The package includes air fares, accommodation and unlimited meals and drinks, etc whereas in Goa, there are barely 2-3 such hotels,” he revealed.
The golden segment of Turkey’s economy was hit hard by the biggest drop in tourist arrivals in 2015-2016. In 2014, the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey peaked at 4.5 million and declined to 3.6 million in 2015 and plummeted further in 2016 to approximately 8,00,000. Now with the ties between both countries back to normal, Turkey expects 7 million Russian tourists this year, and Goa could face a further set back.
Travel agency Sita World Travel Pvt Ltd has estimated around 25 flight cancellations this month. “Last year was a good season. This year there is a slight problem because Turkey is back in action. In this month itself, 20-25 flights from Russia have been cancelled. Nevertheless, some are still flying to Goa till the season ends,” company’s chief Earnest Dias told Herald.
The Managing Director of another travel agency, who refused to be named, also had the same response stating that around 10 flights from Russia were withdrawn in the last few weeks. Nevertheless, thousands arrived in the earlier chartered flights while a little over 250 are expected to land between the month-end and May 15.
There are also travel agencies that are fortunate as their Russian passengers’ trip to Goa are still on. Concord Exotic Voyages Goa is one of them with its general manager Sheikh Ismail claiming that it had 48,000 visitors from Russia, including a few from Ukraine and Kazaksthan, this season. “More are en route,” he said.
In order to ensure that Goa’s tourism does not suffer more, TTAG has urged the government to introduce incentives to chartered companies like subsides and other lucrative facilities.