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Russia keen on tapping Indian outbound tourists with lifting of travel curbs

Tourists at Red Square in Moscow

With Russia lifting restrictions on air travel from India, the country appears to be keen on tapping the Indian outbound tourism market, which has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Paresh Navani, Director of the Mumbai-based Russian Information Centre, told IANS that the drop in Covid-19 cases both in Russia as well as in India bodes well for tourism-related travel to both the countries. "There is also a good level of interest from Indian and Russian travel companies vis-a-vis our respective destinations," he said.

"With the number of Covid cases dropping in India and Russia and vaccines now readily available, it spells good news for business and tourism travel between India and Russia," Navani said.

On January 25, the Russian Government had announced the lifting of travel restrictions for its citizens and residence permit holders in India, Finland, Qatar and Vietnam. Air travel between the two countries is expected to be facilitated first between Moscow and New Delhi.

Despite the turmoil in the Russian travel sector, where some leading charter companies went bust, Goa has traditionally accounted for the bulk of the Russian tourist footfalls to India. In 2019, nearly one lakh Indian tourists travelled to Russia, according to the Russian Information Centre.

As per the current Covid-19 protocol in Russia, inbound travellers must carry with them an RT-PCR negative test report conducted 72 hours prior to arrival.

According to Nilesh Shah, President of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, the opening up of air travel between the two countries is a "good sign", but added that both governments should look to expand the dialogue related to travel to the two destinations.

"The opening up of the sector is good news. The Indian Government should now start issuing tourist visas. It is a good time to start dialogue about expanding the scope for travel to facilitate tourist flow," Shah said.

Shah also said that the current charter tourism season in Goa has already been washed out on account of the pandemic and that the tourism industry stakeholders should take the opportunity presented by the lifting of air travel restrictions to build on attracting tourists, especially via chartered flights, for the 2020-21 tourism season.