Travel agents feel the worsening of the pandemic in Russia has halted the bookings. A lack of clarity over SOPs applicable to tourists is another reason bookings have been slow. “We have not received a single booking from Russia so far, though their government has permitted two flights, one from St Petersburg and another from Moscow. We are waiting for them to inform us what schedule they want us to apply here,” said Abida Kumar, Vice-President, Operations, Minar Travels (India).
Kumar said that soaring Covid-19 cases could be the reason they have not heard from their Russian counterparts so far. “We are told people have been asked to work from home there. We don’t know what’s happening,” she added.
Anupam Kumar, Director, Caper India, said that bookings from Russia and other nations from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), their prime market, have been delayed, but is confident that flights will start from November 15.
“We know for sure that from November 15, two flights will arrive weekly, although slots have not been allotted yet. From December, we are anticipating more flights, at least five to six a week,” he said. He also said the response in terms of bookings has been decent so far, but more clarity is required in SOPs, which are still not clear. “As soon as that happens, we will have a better understanding of the possible response of tourists,” he said.
Ernest Dias, Chief Operating Officer, Sita Travels, said that although (tourism) movement has started, bookings will start once the flight schedule is announced and all SOPs are finalised. “The SOP has been issued but they have to be in detail. We are expecting to get charters from Russia from December,” said Dias.
The government of India has announced that international travellers coming to India will have to produce an RT-PCR-negative certificate, and the Goa government has capped the rate of the test at INR 3,200 for international travellers.
Goa receives about 9 lakh international tourists, including 2-2.5 lakh charter arrivals, annually. More than half the charter tourists in Goa come from CIS countries, and the rest from the UK and a few European countries. Last season, for the first time in decades, Goa did not receive a single charter on account of the pandemic. Operators are expecting a decent season after a break of one year.