CALANGUTE: In a big blow to Goa’s tourism industry, India has been struck off the list of safe travel destinations recommended for Russian tourists, according to a report by the Russian news agency INTERFAX.
In a statement on Saturday, the Russian information centre in Goa stated that a revised travel advisory had been issued following the blacklisting of Egypt and Turkey.
President Vladimir Putin had canceled all flights to Egypt after the Oct 31 explosion of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai peninsula, and then called on its citizens to cancel vacations in Turkey after Turkish missiles shot down a Russian fighter jet in Syria.
Amongst the destinations now identified as ‘safe’ are Cuba, south Vietnam and southern China.
“Both India and Goa were not considered as good destinations for Russian travellers,” said Ekaterina Belyakova, head of the Russian information centre.
“Over the past few years, the number of Russian tourists was not less than 50% of all foreign tourists visiting Goa. Since 2002, the number of Russian-speaking tourists has grown steadily. In 2013, the number of Russian tourists visiting Goa was 250,000,” Belyakova said.
According to an earlier INTERFAX report on Thursday, First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of the Russian Federation, Ivan Melnikov, focused primarily on Cuba, Vietnam and China as new directions for tourist flow as they “have excellent infrastructure, friendly atmosphere and warm weather in winter”.
“Unfortunately, both India and Goa, were not discussed as a promising direction for Russian travelers,” INTERFAX reported.
The Russians were quick to add that the removal of Goa from the safe list was not connected to terror attacks but some ugly local incidents.
The Russian information centre also pointed out that affordability was another reason behind falling Russian arrivals to Goa. The weakening economy had made Russian citizens look for less expensive travel destinations across Asia.
“The crisis began in 2014, and together with the devaluation of the rouble, Russians arriving in Goa halved in number. Contributing to this was also negative incidents involving taxi drivers, and price increases. The trend for 2016 says that there will be more reduction. A very negative impact is the bankruptcy of Transaero Airlines, which flew 50% of Russian tourists to Goa,” Belyakova added.
She also pointed how expensive Goa had become vis a vis other Asian destinations. “According to booking.com, a room with a sea view and air conditioning in Vietnam will cost Rs 700 per night, while in Goa, the same is not less than Rs 1,500,” she said. Five star rates too have hit the roof in Goa.
Analysts are saying that this could perhaps be a tactic to put pressure on the Indian government to intervene and improve conditions for Russian travellers.
With Egypt and Turkey together receiving more than seven million Russian tourists annually, those numbers will now shift to other travel destinations. It remains to be seen whether the Goa government or the Centre will try and woo back the Russians.