Chartered flights with high-spending tourists from Russia will arrive in God’s Own Country in the next tourist season, much to the relief of stakeholders in the tourism industry.

The Russia-based Pegas Touristik has inked an agreement in this regard following the success of chartered flight operations in the tourist season that is coming to a close. The overwhelming response of Russians to the destination is another factor that has resulted in the pact for the next season, a tour operator associated with the chartered flight operations told The Hindu.

The travel trade, which is not happy with the tourist inflow from other countries and main source markets of Kerala Tourism this year, is euphoric over the decision of the Russian tour operators to operate chartered flights in the next tourist season.

This season, the chartered flight operations from Russia that began on October 22 last will come to a close with the last flight departing from the international airport here on April 22. As many as 17 flights were operated during the six-month period, and over 3,000 Russian tourists were flown in.

Upbeat again

Since 2009, no chartered flights had touched down in the State capital, mainly owing to the poor response from foreign tourists. Kovalam’s potential was badly hit by the lack of the chartered flight operations.

The arrival of chartered flights after three years had cheered up the travel trade at the beach resort as rooms in the upmarket and budget hotels were occupied.

The direct flights were operated by Orenair (Orenburg Airlines) and Nordwind Airlines. SITA-Kuoni Destination Managers were the local handlers.

Russian tourists who reached Kovalam opted for eight excursions, including to the hill resort of Ponmudi, the backwaters, Kanyakumari, and Madurai during their stay.

“Compared to British tourists, the Russians were high-spending tourists and the stakeholders in the tourism industry had benefited from their visit. The language barrier was not a problem for the tourists. The listed hotels got 80 per cent occupancy during the six-month period,” a tour operator said.

Though Kerala is touted as a 365-day destination, the arrival of chartered flights from Gatwick in the U.K. used to signal the start of the four-month peak season in November every year. It was the first time that chartered flights from Russia kicked off a tourism season in the State.