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New visa rules likely to bring fewer Brits to Goa this season

PANAJI: If the Omicron variant of Covid-19 combined with non-issuance of e-visas to UK travellers led to cancellation of charters from the UK to Goa during the last tourist season, a change in visa rules has proved a spoiler this year. Goa will likely see fewer arrivals of tourists from the UK this season as Tui Airlines, which was desiring to operate four flights a week starting November, may start with a single trip a week. Recently, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) was informed by TUI about the impending problem. Besides increased travel costs, the complexity and inconvenience in getting a visa has led to a high number of cancellations. With the reduction in load factor, TUI informed TTAG that a point has been reached where it will not be able to operate the four flights a week. “To reach the required minimum seats to operate the aircraft, we will amalgamate the two flights from Manchester and two from Gatwick into one from each departure point — Gatwick on Friday and Manchester on Saturday,” TUI said. The arrangement will last till the second week of December. “From December 13, we are still selling the four flights per week, but this could also change,” the communication read. A traveller has to appear in person at a visa centre in the UK while applying for a tourist visa has proved to be a stumbling block. Even if a traveller wishes to travel an extra mile to visit the centre, it is not necessary that he will be lucky enough to get an appointment, said a local tour operator. “Uncertainty over visas has led to cancellations of bookings by Britons, but the picture about the total business lost will be clear only next week,” a local operator said. Last season, Goa had not received a single charter flight from the UK with TUI cancelling its plan. TTAG president Nilesh Shah told TOI that chief minister Pramod Sawant had spoken to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMOs) office, trying his best to see that the visa issue was resolved before the season could start, but the status quo hasn’t changed. Similarly, arrivals of tourists from Kazakhstan may also be affected due to visa issues.