After nearly a year with hardly any revenues, travel agents in the city have received a shot in the arm following a nod from Russian authorities to promote vaccine vacation to the country. With the wedding season in the offing, the agents expect honeymooners to particularly grab the opportunity.While the vaccination trip plans floated by a couple of Delhi-based travel agencies are currently doing the rounds, agents in Kolkata are working on packages and are expected to firm up proposals by this weekend. Roughly, the trip duration will be for 24 days: 20 days in Moscow and four in St Petersburg.
“We had a word with authorities at the Russian consulate as well as travel agents in Russia. They have confirmed that vaccinatoin will be offered to tourists. The vaccination drive in Russia has been so successful that from May 15, people aren’t required to wear masks. Indians can travel to Russia after getting an RT-PCR test done and can either enjoy a vacation without the hassle of quarantine or can opt for a vaccination package that will include two shots within 24 days in addition to the sightseeing opportunities,” said Travel Agents Federation of India chairman (east) Anil Punjabi.
City travel agents said they were already getting inquiries about the vaccine holiday proposed in Russia. Some though are just waiting to see how it takes off. “Once the restrictions that are currently in place in Kolkata eases and the mood lifts, there will be many takers, particularly in the upper middle class families that have not had a vacation in a long time,” said Travel Agents Association of India chairman (east) Manav Soni.
Another travel agent said the higher efficacy of Sputnik V vis-a-vis both Covishield and Covaxin that are currently available in India could also be a draw for the segment that can afford the vacation. Sputnik is also set to be manufactured in India and is in comparative analysis trials in hospitals.
The Russia vaccination holiday, priced between Rs 2.2 lakh and Rs 2.4 lakh per person, will include 24-day stay at 3-star hotels in Moscow and St Petersburg, sight-seeing and guided tours to all major tourist spots in these cities, flight and train fares as well as local sightseeing transport and ticket costs. The parity in Russian Rouble and Indian Rupee means the rather long trip will not be as prohibitively expensive as to some other European countries. Also, hotel tariffs are at an all-time low.
In December, some travel agents had prematurely floated proposals to take a vaccination holiday to the UK. But it did not materialize as BritaÐin did not open up vaccination to tourists. The industry feels UK too will open up the doors and use vaccination as a bait to attract tourists now that it about to complete vaccinating its population.
Soni believes vaccination tourism will be a reality in the UK, the US and the UAE and open up travel and tourism opportunities to these countries as well. “Right now, India is on the red list. But once the restrictions are eased and they allow travel after an RT-PCR test, many will hop on to a flight,” he said.
Source: Times of India