Russia is Goa’s most important overseas source market. However, given the current situation, it is unclear when the flights will resume normal operations. According to the reports, it will have a direct impact on the operations of 4,000 small and medium-sized hotels in Goa.
The eerie effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and the subsequent suspension of international flights from east European and central Asian destinations beginning March 6 – are having a significant impact on Goa’s charter season. The season has already taken a hit as a result of lower bookings from Russian destinations. It destabilized the post-pandemic economic recovery, upsetting several sectors’ revival plans.
Goa had one chartered flight from Russia coming down every ten days since December 30 last year. Because of the pandemic, the charter season began late and may end prematurely. And between October and mid-May, charter flights arrive in large numbers in Goa. However, given the current situation, it is unclear when the flights will resume normal operations.
“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 media.
At the moment, the number of charter flights from Kazakhstan has decreased. Kazakhstan only sends charters to Goa once a week. Previously, during the tourist season, 40-50 flights from Ukraine would land in the state. Traditionally, Russia has been the source of the majority of charter flights landing in Goa. Russians visit Goa in such large numbers that several shack menus, signboards, and even store signs have 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 If due to the sanctions a fleet of charters leased to operators in Russia is withdrawn, they will be in trouble,” Goa Chamber of Commerce President Ralph de Sousa.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.
Based on the drop in Russian tourism arrivals after the country invaded Crimea, charter tourism will almost certainly suffer now as well.
This blow to Goa’s tourism industry comes on the heels of two years of losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When charter flights resumed in December 2020, it was a huge relief for many businesses. The state’s first post-pandemic charter flight had arrived from Russia.
“Most of these guests spent 14-21 days in Goa. Many hotels that have been suffering for the past 20 months depend on the 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, told.
Small hotels whose main customers are chartered tourists are left with little business. A significant increase in domestic tourism has recently kept Goa buzzing, but many operators rely on foreigners. Foreign tourists contribute significantly to Goa’s tourism industry. Without them, the state’s hospitality sector has struggled over the last two years. Goa’s tourism industry must quickly expand into new markets around the world. Goa has been heavily reliant on Russia and Ukraine for charter tourists. However, in order to cushion the blows of war, the state’s tourism market must diversify.