First flight from Russia to touch down on October 18

After three years, chartered flights from Moscow and Ekaterinburg in Russia will start arriving here from the third week of October, raising hopes of a good tourist season among the hospitality and travel industry here.

A flight from Ekaterinburg, the fourth largest city in Russia, with 284 tourists is to touch down at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport around 10 a.m. on October 18. Confirming the arrival of the flights, Airport Director V.N. Chandran said it would be the maiden chartered flight to land at the airport after the commissioning of the world-class terminal at the airport.

Since 2009, no chartered flights have touched down at the State capital, mainly due to poor response from foreign tourists. The beach resort of Kovalam was badly hit by the lack of chartered flight operations.

The flight from Ekaterinburg will be followed by one from Moscow with 221 tourists on October 22. The flight will land here at 7 a.m. The flights will return two hours after touchdown.

The chartered tourists are being flown in by the Russia-based Pegas Touristik and the direct flights are to be operated by Orenair (Orenburg Airlines) and Nordwind Airlines. SITA-Kuoni Destination Managers are the local handlers of the chartered tourists.

Chartered flights from Ekaterinburg will arrive every week till May 18 and those from Moscow till May 26. The tourists from Ekaterinburg will spend a minimum of 13 nights at Kovalam and those from Moscow 10 nights, according to the tour operators. Local tours and round trips will be organised.

Though Kerala is touted as a 365-day destination, the arrival of chartered flights from Gatwick in the United Kingdom used to signal the start of the four-month peak season commencing in November. It is for the first time that chartered flights from Russia are arriving to herald a tourist season in the State.

450 rooms booked

As many as 450 rooms in the upmarket and budget hotels in Kovalam have been booked for the chartered tourists.

The news of the arrival of chartered tourists after a gap of three years has cheered up those in the travel trade.

The hoteliers, especially those running budget hotels, who were the worst-hit are gearing up to receive the tourists.

The arrival of chartered tourists will give spin-off benefits to locals and those in the tourism industry. Efforts are on to operate chartered flights from Poland this tourist season, sources said. The chartered flights from Gatwick and from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, were the last to operate to the city.

More In: Kerala | National