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New Delhi: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and the subsequent suspension of Russian airlines’ international flights from March 6 – is hitting Goa’s charter season hard. The season was already hit because of the reduced bookings from Russian destinations, Times of India reported.
Charter flights usually arrive in large numbers in Goa between October and mid May. Given the current situation, however, it is unclear when the flights will run as normal again.
“If the war continues, naturally, we can’t expect any charters in April. However, if the war stops, we may see a few flights next month. We are still getting bookings, but significantly less,” said Concord vice-president Sheikh Ismail to the Times of India.
At the moment, Goa is receiving only once-a-week charters from Kazakhstan. A majority of the charter flights landing in Goa have traditionally been from Russia. In fact, Russians throng to Goa in such large numbers that several shack menus, signboards and even store signs include a Russian version.
“All operators from Russia take charters on lease. If due to the sanctions a fleet of charters leased to operators in Russia are withdrawn, they will be in trouble,” Goa Chamber of Commerce president Ralph de Sousa.
Tourists from Belarus, Georgia and other CIS countries are also unlikely to travel right now, he added, given the conflict.
This hit to the tourism industry in Goa comes after two years of losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When charter flights resumed in December 2020, Times of India reported that this had come as a big relief to several businesses. The very first post-pandemic charter flight to the state had come from Russia.
Hotel owners too were happy with the prospects of charter guests arriving in Goa. “Most of these guests spent 14-21 days in Goa. Many hotels that have been suffering for the past 20 months depend on charter business for survival. This vertical will help the overall industry, since various segments rely on charters coming into Goa,” Nilesh Shah, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, had told the newspaper then.
Foreign tourists are an important part of Goa’s tourism industry. Without them in the last two years, the hospitality sector in the state has faced difficulties. While hopes were high with the renewal of charter flights, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has once again dampened spirits.