Russian, UK airlines plan Goa flights as India opens up to foreign tourists

Topics Travel | foreign tourists | Russia

Between October 2018 and May 2019, Goa received 813 charter flights and 218,776 foreign tourists
Goa will receive charter flights from Russia and the United Kingdom from November as India opens the door to foreign tourists. While travel agents from Goa said TUI Airways flights from the UK are expected from the first week of November, the airline said operations will start from December 13.

“We’re operating to Goa from December 13. However, this is still under review pending government advice,” a TUI spokesperson said in an email response.

Flights from Russia are expected to start from mid-November. Russia is the biggest source market for Goa tourism and in pre-Covid times the state would receive four to five daily flights from Russia during the winter months.

“So far only Rossiya Airlines has received permission from the Russian government for two weekly flights to Goa. Other companies have made applications, too. The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) is yet to approve the Rossiya Airlines flights and the schedule will be finalised once approvals are in place,” said Abida Kumar, vice-president (operations) of Minar Travels, which handles groups from Russia.

Goa airport director Gagan Malik said local representatives of charter companies are in touch with the airport but no applications have been made for slots as yet.

According to the Union home ministry, leisure tourists will be allowed to travel on charter flights from October 15. Tourists will be allowed on normal flights from November 15. Only single entry 30-day tourist visas will be issued.

  • Home ministry decides to allow foreign tourists to visit India on charter flights from October 15
  • Health ministry guidelines on quarantine and Covid-19 need to be adhered to
  • Russia and the UK are top source markets for Goa tourism
  • TUI Airways and Rossiya Airlines planning flights to Goa
  • Between October 2018 and May 2019 Goa received 813 charter flights and 218,776 foreign tourists
“In respect of quarantine and all other health/Covid-19 related matters, extant guidelines of the ministry of health and family welfare shall be strictly adhered to,” the home ministry said in its office memorandum last week.

While all travellers coming to India need a negative RT-PCR test report 72 hours before departure, those from the UK need to be tested on arrival and have to undergo seven days of home quarantine according to February 17 guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

“We need more clarity on health and quarantine regulations,” said Nilesh Shah, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa. “We are expecting good numbers this season. Free visas will help offset some of the extra costs associated with RT-PCR testing,” said Ernest Dias, chief operating officer of Sita Travels.

The state is a popular destination for Europeans and each winter thousands arrive on charter flights, especially from the UK and Russia. The charter season begins in October and runs till May each year.

Between October 2018 and May 2019, Goa received 813 charter flights and 218,776 foreign tourists. Over 90,000 tourists came from Russia in 292 flights followed by the UK and Ukraine, according to Goa tourism department data.

Goa received the highest number of charter flights in 2013-14. In that year, the state received 1,128 flights carrying 261,452 foreign tourists. The number of foreign charter flights dropped to 798 in 2015-16 but climbed again to 988 in the subsequent year.

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