Kiev, Jan 20 (IANS) Fun-loving Ukrainians are heading to Goa in big numbers. The Indian holiday destination is a clear favourite, with Ukraine's flag carrier operating two packed direct flights to the state every week - the only airline in Eastern Europe to do so.
'Goa for us is a dream. It is on the radar screen for well-to-do tourists in Ukraine. The big publicity campaign in the Ukrainian media plus by word of mouth has created a big curiosity for Goa,' said Tanya Zinevera, a Ukrainian who was seeking an Indian visa, told this visiting IANS correspondent.
'The profile of India has also gone up by many notches. One can't go to Thai beaches again and again. There should be some change.'
Once the poorest part of Eastern Europe, Ukraine has regained some economic muscle in the last few years and for people keen to move to warm places in the harsh winter, Goa is a winner.
One can observe long lines in front of the Indian embassy every day, seeking visas. The embassy has limited staff and limited space to cater to the huge demand even though Indian Ambassador Jyoti Pande and the head of the visa section, Amit Verma, do their best.
Some 14,000 visas are being issued annually by the Indian embassy. Earlier, the number seldom crossed 10,000.
To meet the demands, the Ukrainian International Airways (UIA) has started two direct flights a week from Kiev to Goa. Its flights are packed to capacity. It is the only airline in Eastern Europe which has direct flights to Goa. The airline is using American Boeing planes on this sector.
People from other parts of Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland and Romania, get encouraged to travel to Goa via Kiev.
In the past, there were some other chartered flights to Goa from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, but those flights were not a great success as Lithuania is a very small Baltic country.
(Surender Bhutani can be reached at email@example.com)