Despite the overall fall in demand because of the economic situation, tour operators report that interest in India remains stable: Russians are choosing beach holidays in Goa, or combined tours.

“India is attractive to Russian tourists for many reasons: it is one of the options for a budget exotic beach holiday in the winter, and many interesting excursion programmes are available. In addition, Russian tourists are treated well there,” said Svetlana Davidyuk, head of Exotic Destinations and the West Asia tour operator Russian Express.

According to the tour organisers, tourists mainly go to the resorts of Goa, combine a beach holiday with excursions, or opt for tours to the popular “Golden Triangle” (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur). “In the main, tourists travel individually, or in small groups of two to three families,” said a source at Intourist.

Ayurveda holidays to the state of Kerala, meanwhile, are mainly individual tours.

“80% of our sales have been excursion tours to India, and 20% VIP tours with holidays in Kerala, Goa and the Himalayas, at spa hotels and Ayurveda resorts,” said Natalia Malkhasyan, head of the Middle East at the KMP Group, another tour firm.

Beach holidays in Goa are popular with tourists from Moscow and certain Russian regions, Davidyuk explained, as there are direct charter flights to the state from there, and attractive offers from Arabic airlines on regular flights. According to her, both budget hotels of North Goa and the swank five-star hotels of South Goa are in demand. Ayurveda and yoga tours to Kerala, the birthplace of Ayurveda, are also increasingly popular. “Hotels with good Ayurveda centers on the beaches of Kovalam are in demand,” said Davidyuk.

Tours to India last on average from a week to 10-11 days. The average cost per person is $700-800 for an excursion tour, and $1000-1200 for a combined tour. For Russian Express tours, the average cost per person is $700-1000. KMP Group excursion tours, on average, are 7 nights long and cost 65,000 rubles per person, including the airfare.

The operators say that sales of tours to Goa this new year have been good. “Tourists have been planning their vacation earlier; departure dates at the beginning of January have sold better than those at the end of the month, but there has been no scramble for them,” Davidyuk said. She believes that both the ban on flights to Egypt and the good deals at Goa’s budget beach hotels have led to additional sales growth.

The KMP Group has seen a surge in sales of excursion tours, as well as health holidays to Kerala.

Tour operators all agree that the main factor holding back sales growth for tours to India is the fall in the ruble. “The cost of a tour is increasing in price only because of the rise in the dollar. Other prices in India are practically unchanged,” stressed the KMP Group.