02 Dec 2021  |   07:15am IST

Omicron casts shadow over international tourist arrivals

Bookings drop as new variant scares travellers; No charter flight cancelled yet
Omicron casts shadow over  international tourist arrivals

Team Herald

PANJIM: Hopes of an upswing in tourism fortunes, with international tourists boosting numbers, have been dashed by the omicron variant scare and Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s announcement postponing resumption of scheduled international flights indefinitely. 

This could spell doom to the much-awaited charter flight which are set to commence from mid-December. 

After a lull of nearly two years, Goa is scheduled to get its first charter flight from Kazakhstan on December 15. However, many countries have begun imposing travel restrictions and in India, international passengers will be tested before exiting the airport while those arriving from high risk countries will have to mandatorily undergo 14 days institutional quarantine.

In the wake of this, charter operators have complained of a dip in bookings, though they concede that precautionary measures are a must to avert a possible outbreak of the new variant. 

“Bookings have dropped in the wake of the recent development, including the fresh guidelines by the Centre. Although the decision on the movement of charter flights has been kept on hold, we have noticed that bookings have been impacted. The reason also being that passengers, notwithstanding their connecting flights, will have to undergo testing at airports and will travel onward depending on the test results. This means a passenger will spend nearly a day at the airport doing all these formalities,” Goa representative of Royal Flights, Melroy D’Costa, told Herald.  

Anupam Kumar, Director of Caper Travel also claimed a decline in bookings. Fortunately, no cancellations have been recorded by charter tourists so far. The agency handles Russian charter operations in the State and will bring in Kazak tourists this month. 

“Our daily booking count was 50-60 but it has dropped down by 50 per cent,” Kumar said, adding that three flights from Kazakhstan are slated to bring 510 tourists on December 15, 16 and 18, 2021. 

This means, Kazakhstan’s National carrier Air Asthana will carry 170 passengers from Almaty into Goa. Kazakhstan resumed air travel with India from November 15, in accordance with the decision of Kazakhstan’s Interdepartmental Commission on preventing the spread of coronavirus infection. The flight to India on the route Almaty – Delhi – Almaty started on this day, with a frequency of three flights a week.

India’s revised travel guidelines, asking State governments to enhance screening of all incoming international passengers, has brought Goa Tourism back to COVID-19 days. 

“Domestic arrivals over the past few weeks saved our business. We were expecting a boost with the international arrivals, but the omicron variant has played a spoilsport,” Inacio Fernandes, shack operator in South Goa told Herald. 

The shack operators had shut their businesses prematurely owing to the pandemic last year, and looked forward to a fruitful season as governments across the world eased travel restrictions to countries that have vaccinated a large percentage of the population.