Air travelers grounded
The dramatic increase in airfares has had an effect on international travel in the state. The usual practice of going to cooler climates in Europe during the summer holidays will not happen this year. Travel agents talked about the state of things on the ground
It was quite a chaotic time for the aviation industry. For two years, all planes were parked at various airports around the world. Over the past two months, various airlines have begun to significantly restrict services to countries. These flights themselves were under controlled conditions and were operated in an air bubble. This meant that the cost of tickets was astronomical and flying was the last option in an emergency or for the very wealthy. Now, with the war in Ukraine, the cost of fuel has increased, pushing the cost of plane tickets even higher. This can have repercussions. In Goa, it is not uncommon for families to leave the state during summer holidays to travel to cooler climes in Europe or elsewhere. But now, with this rising cost, that means a change of plans. For state travel agents, it’s a case of mixed feelings. Gautam Bhende, who runs a travel agency in Panjim, said currently flights are very expensive if one wants to go abroad. He said, however, that people were considering international destinations closer to home. He said: “Places like Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Cambodia have proven to be places of interest for the Goans. However, there were still some considering Europe and countries like France and Spain issuing visas for tourism, but the cost of tickets is higher. Countries like Germany and Luxembourg only issued visas for business travel and did not encourage tourists. Very few airlines fly.” He, however, said many Goans are now seriously considering domestic destinations. He said people were looking at Sikkim, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. According to him, people preferred to visit them because of all the restrictions in place. Gaurish Dharwadker, another travel agent, said the general feeling was that people wanted to travel. The Indians, he said, were tough and used to such shocks. Gaurish said: “Remember for those with money, these hikes don’t really matter. For those traveling overseas, they had to stay put due to all the restrictions on cross-border travel. Thanks to the arrangement of the bubbles, the airlines have made a lot of money. In India too, ticket prices have gone up, but people are turning to destinations like the North East. Small groups planning to go to places like Kashmir, Sikkim and Assam get good response. These are now attractive destinations. Those who go abroad are those who have a job, students or businessmen who are going to do business. Muriel, who runs the package business at a major travel agency in Margao, said people were not traveling to destinations in Europe this year. According to her, people were looking at destinations like Dubai, Singapore and Thailand. These destinations, she said, were budget-friendly and fell in the Rs 60,000 to 65,000 bracket. Inquiries for Europe were coming in for destinations like France and Switzerland. The budgets were around Rs 1,25,000 and the length of stay was one week. Requests for cheaper places in Eastern Europe were also coming in. As for inland destinations, Shimla, Kashmir and Sikkim were proving popular. Although for people looking for short stays, Ooty was a nice option. Hemant S, who was planning to travel abroad, said it was a matter of great urgency that needed to be tackled otherwise he would have preferred to stay in Goa. He said: “The cost of the ticket on some airlines is mind-boggling and those airlines are certainly making the most of these strange conditions. I hope everything will be fine and the situation will return to what it was in the pre-covid era”. It’s something that everyone hopes will happen sooner rather than later.