Guess which place Lithuanians would love to visit? Goa!

July 6th, 2008 - 1:39 pm ICT by IANS  

By Azera Rahman
Vilnius (Lithuania), July 6 (IANS) Suddenly a lot of people from this tiny Baltic state of Lithuania want to visit India, the prime attraction for them being Goa, with its sun kissed beaches and promise of exotica. For six months starting in October, more than 3,000 Lithuanian tourists are expected to travel to Goa by chartered flights.

“There is a huge demand here to travel to Goa in India,” said Rajinder Kumar Chaudhary, honorary consul of India to Lithuania and a retired Indian Air Force pilot.

Word of mouth publicity and the cultural similarities between Lithuania and India are said to be fuelling this interest in Goa.

“From October this year until the next six months, a minimum of eight chartered flights are expected to be operated which will take more than 3,000 Lithuanian tourists to Goa,” Chaudhary said.

He was speaking to this visiting IANS correspondent over an after-dinner coffee in his Indian restaurant in Vilnius, the country’s capital.

“Chartered flights to Goa were started by Novaturas, a prominent outbound tours Lithuanian company, now owned by a Polish group, in association with Finnair, from February this year. Till April they operated four chartered flights for the group tours and carried approximately 1,000 passengers,” he added.

Generally travelling to places like Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Spain, India has suddenly emerged as a much sought-after holiday destination among the Lithuanians.

Lithuania, with a population of just over three million, itself is endowed with everything that a tourist can possibly ask for - a rich cultural and natural heritage.

Elaborate castles amid lakes paint a fairytale picture, a long shoreline, churches dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries and boasting of different forms of architecture like Renaissance and Gothic - Lithuania sits pretty in a cocoon of old world charm.

But there is more than one reason why its people want to make a beeline for Goa.

“Goa is a new destination with exotic beaches and classy hotels. Besides the curiosity to explore a new place such as this, the excellent feedback from those who have already been there adds an extra leverage,” 70-year-old Chaudhary said.

“Lithuanians give a lot of importance to word of mouth - more than any other type of advertising.

“Also the Lithuanians have a great affinity for Indian culture. The Lithuanian and Sanskrit languages have around 2,000-3,000 similar meaning words. And there is a great similarity in the cultures as well,” he added.

According to Chaudhary, there are four to six applications for Indian visas every day in addition to the projections for charters.

At present, visas to India are issued by the Indian embassy in Warsaw, Poland. The cumbersome process of sending one’s passport through the tour operator, therefore, takes a minimum of five to six days. It also becomes a very expensive affair.

“In fact, if and when the visas are issued in Vilnius - the proposal is already under the active examination of the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi - the traffic will almost double as Novaturas will be able to offer last-minute deals on the charters,” he said.

“Novaturas is also talking to Indian tour operators so that once the Lithuanian groups are in Goa, they could take charters flights within India, instead of spending all the 10-11 days in Goa. This angle, although at an initial stage, will be an added incentive to the traveller,” Chaudhary said.

Outbound travel from India to Lithuania could also become a reality very soon, considering the Lithuanian government has sanctioned the setting up of a Lithuanian embassy in India, he said.

“The consul general designate of Lithuania along with his wife shifted to India July 1. So visas for the Indians to travel to Lithuania could soon be a reality and who knows that Finnair might utilise the charter flights to bring outbound tours from India to Lithuania for better utilisation. There’s always a possibility,” Chaudhary added.

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