THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala’s love affair with Soviet literature and its passion for Communist Russia was famous down the decades. However, the Russian landscape did not capture the imagination of the Malayali as much as its thoughts did.The things are changing now. According to tourism agencies, there is a newfound craze for Russia among Keralites to visit Russia and the former Soviet Union countries.
Of late, there has been a three to four-fold increase in people visiting Russia and other USSR countries like Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and others in the last few years. To capitalise on this newfound love for eastern European countries, the travel agencies are offering attractive and competitive offers ranging from `60,000-`75,000 per person for a six night package while five day packages to the Far East including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia are offered at `40,000-60,000 during peak season.
According to Ross Masood Padiyath, chairman, Kerala chapter of Travel Agents Association of India, “If there were only a few hundred tourists to these destinations from the state a few years ago, the number would be near 10,000 now.”
Russia’s liberal visa policy attracting more tourists
There are around 15 registered agencies under the TAAI, and each one of them has been now sending at least 1,000-odd tourists to these destinations during summer. Abraham George, member, National Tourism Advisory Board, says: “These visits are purely sightseeing and not based on any love for communist countries. The iconic places like Red Square in Moscow, St Basil’s Cathedral, Kremlin, St Petersburg and of course epic train rides and vodka-fuelled nightlife in these destinations are the main attractions for the tourists.”
Earlier, there were strict visa regulations in these countries. Now they have liberalised it to attract more tourists. E M Najeeb, South India regional chairman of IATO, said the rise in outbound tourist traffic would also catalyse inbound as the cultural exchange between these countries will be strengthened with the increase in tourists. According to the tourism officers, as many as 17,820 foreign tourists from Russia alone visited Kerala in the first six months of 2018, whereas it was 16,601 during the same period the previous year, an increase of 7.34 per cent.