http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/278512

Goans in Qatar and elsewhere hail Qatar Airways Goa-Doha route Special

Posted Aug 30, 2009 by Armstrong Vaz
The decision by Sri Lanka Airlines to stop its operations to the Indian resort state of Goa from March 28 was part of the bad news which the tourism industry in the Indian state had to face in the days of the worldwide economic recession.
But in the same breadth, there came hope. Qatar Airways announced plans to start direct flights to Goa starting October 25.
The decision of the Qatari airline company to launch direct flights to Goa has been welcomed by the Goan community in Qatar, including Simon D’Silva President of Qatar Welfare Association (GWA).
“We welcome the move to start direct flights from Doha to Goa by Qatar Airways. We at GWA had been in touch with various airlines to starts direct flights, for the last couple of years, both Indian and Gulf carriers. We are thankful that our long-time demand has been heeded by Qatar Airways.”
Silva was part of the business survey conducted by Qatar Airways on the feasibility of starting the Goa-Doha route added: “The Qatar Airways contacted a number of people from Goa who matter before taking their decision. One of them was John D’Silva Chairman of the NRI Cell in Goa - a body representing the interests of Non-resident Indians from the beach-side paradise, journalist Fredrick Noronha.”
And, he feels that the starting of the new route will help Qatari nationals visit the state which is a popular destination for tourists for its beaches, places of worship and world heritage architecture.
“It is a big boost for the Goan tourism. As some of Europe’s biggest airlines pull out of key routes in India because of an economic slowdown, Qatar airways flights will plug the gaps. Passengers flying to Europe and the US from India, use West Asia as connecting airports,” he said.
The sun-kissed, palm tree-lined beaches attract some 400,000 overseas visitors every year.
Goa recently has been ranked at No 4 on a list of ‘10 best exotic places to take an extended holiday’ by international travel website TripAtlas.com.
According to the website, an ‘extended holiday’ is more than two weeks long. The website ranks Goa above renowned Asian holiday resorts as the island of Bali in Indonesia as well as Thailand’s exotic beach resorts of Phuket and Pattaya.
“Goa is a hot holiday spot for Indian and South Asian vacationers and is best known for its beaches, festivals and ancient temples. It was once a Portuguese colony and thus offers an eclectic mix of both east and west.
Calangute and Candolim are the most popular beach towns, but Goa’s capital Panaji is worth a visit, as is Ponda, a sacred site of Goan temples”, the website says.
Goa ranks above even European and US destinations like Florida, the Canary Islands off Africa and the island of St Martinique in the Caribbean, it added.
With Sri Lanka Airlines suspending Goa operations from March 28, travel was difficult for outbound travellers to Europe or the US who had to travel to Mumbai, spend sleepless nights to catch the early morning flights.
However, Air Arabia starting direct flights to Goa has given some respite to the Gulf travellers would not have to travel via Mumbai.
UAE-based international carrier Air Arabia started direct flights between Sharjah and Goa from April 16 this year.
Data from the directorate general of civil aviation, India’s aviation regulator, shows West Asia generates the most passenger traffic to and from India. In 2006-07, the latest period for which data is available, 1.73 million passengers flew into India from West Asia, while 1.96 million travelled from India to the Gulf regions
Qatar airways have also scheduled flights to the northern Indian city of Amritsar from October 11 ahead of Diwali, the religious festival of lights. The launch dates of two new Indian routes – Goa and Amritsar – in time for the busy winter holiday season.
Both routes will be operated four-times-per-week non-stop from the airline’s hub in Doha, capital of the State of Qatar. The two-class Airbus A320s to be used on the route are configured with 12 seats in Business and 132 seats in Economy.
Passengers flying on Qatar Airways from Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East, will have excellent connections to the late evening departures from Doha to both Goa and Amritsar.
Marlon Menezes, a Goan based in USA, has this to say on Goanet, Goa's premiere mailing list, established in 1994. “Pretty good for people who live in Texas and in particular Houston as there is a direct flight from Houston to Doha. Beats having to take those weird charter flights from Europe.”
Goa-based environment campaigner Clinton Vaz, a frequent flyer to Sweden is delighted for the direct link between Doha and Goa.
“This is great news. I've been traveling by Qatar the past few occasions (via mumbai) as they have been the cheapest so far. Great connectivity, great facilities at the Doha Airport, Free WiFi, and above all the in fight service is exceptional. Seems you can get a Mumbai-Stockholm return ticket for 3800SEK!! (About 26000 Rupees!) I checked last week. That's great that they will start out from Goa itself. That finally makes Europe within 12 hours reach from Goa with a scheduled full service flight finally”
Qatar Airways currently operates 56 flights a week between Doha and India – daily non-stop services to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Trivandrum, Cochin and Kozhikode. The addition of Amritsar and Goa will take Qatar Airways’ Indian capacity up to 64 flights a week.