The invasion of Ukraine will slow down the arrival of Russian tourists but will have a limited impact on travel and hospitality business in Goa, according to industry experts.

Russia is the number one overseas source market for Goa tourism and tourists from the country began arriving in the state from December 31 – after a gap of nearly two years due to Covid pandemic. The state has received six charter flights from Russia till now and the seventh is expected on March 3. But with the ongoing war in Ukraine there is an uncertainty about these flights that are expected to arrive till May 15. The travel industry in the state, however, is not unduly worried about the development.

“There will be an impact on the arrival of Russian tourists this season but it is not a huge concern. Domestic travel demand is strong. With the beginning of Carnival in the state from today and Holi-weekend next month we expect good business,” said Nilesh Shah, president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa.

“Demand has come back with a vengeance in February with bookings from both leisure and corporate segments. Room occupancy had dropped to 30 per cent during the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic but it has now doubled. The outlook for March is also promising,” said Betty Remedios, director of sales and marketing, Grand Hyatt, Goa.

According to her, earlier five-star hotels used to allocate a significant number of rooms for foreign charters. “We haven’t received charters from Britain this year and Russians too are not opting for five-star properties,” she added.

Around 3,000 tourists arrived in Goa in six charter flights from Russia this season. Totally the state has received 30 charters since December and this includes 24 flights from Kazakhstan. The Russian flights are operated by Rossiya Airlines with its 522 seater Boeing 747 aircraft.

This is in sharp contrast to the pre-pandemic era. Between October 2018 to May 2019 Goa received 813 charter flights and 218,776 foreign tourists. This included around 90,000 tourists from Russia in 292 flights. This was followed by tourists from the UK and Ukraine.

“We have started receiving booking cancellations from customers. There is a lot of uncertainty now regarding the charters from Russia. Typically, the payments are made prior to their arrival. The US and European countries have imposed sanctions on Russian banks and there could be issues in remittances. So it is a wait and watch situation now,” said Abida Kumar, vice president (operations) of Minar Travels, which handles groups from Russia.

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