Russians have in the recent past knocked off the British from the top of the list of foreigners who fuel tourism in Goa. (File/PTI)
Goa's much vaunted tourism season officially got off to a major start as the first of anticipated 600-plus chartered flights from Moscow landed Sunday at the state's only airport at Dabolim, 35 km from here.
If one goes by Russian consular and airport officials, the season promises to be healthy.
"We welcome the first Russian charter flight to Goa and expect 600-700 Russian flights this season. Most of the Russian tourists that arrived today were families and couples," says Russia's honorary Consul in Goa, Victor Albuquerque.
The first flight which made its way to Goa from Moscow carried 235 Russian tourists on board.
Russians have in the recent past knocked off the British from the top of the list of foreigners who fuel tourism in Goa.
Tourism industry experts believe that nearly 1.5 lakh Russians could land in Goa this season.
According to Albuquerque, "Egypt has a lot of Russian and UK tourists. With the turmoil there, they may decide to switch over to Goa for holidays."
The airport was prepared to handle additional volume this year, Dabolim airport director M. Suresh said.
"We are expecting 1,400 flights this tourist season 2013-14. To cater to the growing numbers of arrivals, we have increased the number of custom officers to simplify immigration facility," he said.
Goa annually attracts nearly three million tourists. Foreigners, from Russia and the UK, account for more than half a million tourists, who flock to the state in order to escape the harsh European winter and bask in the mild winter sun on Goa beaches.