March 17, 2022 | 04:41 IST

Goans head north to relax

With COVID restrictions finally being eased gradually in many countries and international flights also set to resume in the country after two years from March 27, Herald finds that Goans are happy to travel within the country and are heading to the North.

Ray Shashwat Gupta

After being locked in their homes for two years due to COVID-19, people are now desperate to get out with the easing of travel restrictions. However, there are a few outstanding issues for international travel that need to be ironed out. Until then, Goans are happy to explore destinations in the country.

They prefer the cool climates of northern India, with Kashmir at the top of the list, followed by Himachal Pradesh and other destinations.

“On March 27, international flights will start operating. Once that happens, countries will open up and international travel will resume. Currently, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have opened up. Others will open,” said Goa Travel and Tourism Association (TTAG) Chairman Nilesh Shah, saying there is currently a greater preference for domestic destinations. Foreign travel has not yet resumed.

“Once international flights resume, we will know the trends in outbound travel. For starters, the traffic will increase from people who have been stranded all this time abroad and eager to return home or families of NRIs desperate to meet loved ones they have not been able to see for the past two years. Gradually, leisure travel will also resume,” Shah said.

Currently, Dubai is doing well as visa restrictions have been eased. But this is not the case for many Western countries, especially in Europe. But now news of the resurgence of COVID in China is fueling fear again. This could affect travel abroad.

“For the next five months, we are planning more domestic travel given the current situation. North India is a popular destination. Kashmir and Leh-Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh (Shimla, Dalhousie and Kulu Manali) , Uttarakhand (Nainital and Dehradun) are prime destinations for Goans,” the TTAG Chairman said.

Harish Dharwadkar, Chairman of Travel and Tourism Association of India (TTAI), Goa Chapter, said Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are preferred in the country. Previously, Rajasthan was also on the Goans travel list.

“Now the flights are full. Dubai has always been a favorite foreign destination for travel. Once international flights begin, we expect to see traffic for the UK. Traditionally, the TTAI had our annual convention in Thailand. , which has not happened due to COVID in the past two years. This year Sri Lanka Tourism invited us to hold the convention there. It will be a very big event. We will share our plans business with Sri Lankan travel agents. We are looking forward to this event,” he said.

Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India) Limited, said: “In Goa, we have seen a strong resurgence in travel demand with buoyant business to international favorites in short distance like the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Thailand, Singapore, Nepal and Dubai-Abu Dhabi for the last month of Expo 2020.”

Additionally, our customers’ long-haul favorites from Goa include Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria, Spain, Portugal, UK, Turkey, Egypt, Australia and the United States for visa customers. Recent positive announcements and easing of restrictions are helping to fuel consumer sentiment and travel demand

“Goans show a keen appetite to explore India – with destinations such as Kashmir, Himachal, Andaman, North East, Rajasthan and Kerala seeing high demand. Goans are interested in discover India’s hidden gems and traveler’s secrets: eclectic/unique accommodations like tea/coffee plantations, treetops, heritage stays, palaces, forts or in the heart of a desert or ‘bamboo groves are attracting growing interest,’ Kale said.

The Secretary of TTAI, Goa Chapter, Valingo Dias, however, said fear remains the biggest obstacle to traveling abroad.

“The UK has taken steps to reduce the feeling of fear, such as removing masks. Other countries like India should also take steps to make people comfortable,” Dias said.