Variety

Braving Covid, first tourist group fly from Kochi to US

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on November 12, 2021

Tour company had to find people who already held valid visas since consulates had not started issuing visas

Making history, a group of 24 tourists including 70-year-old Anantha Kamath and 4-year-old Master John Franklin took off from Kochi’s international airport to the US — the first such group from India to the US since the outbreak of Covid pandemic.

Out of these 24 tourists, 22 of them are visiting the US for the first time.

They flew out of Kochi on a Qatar Airways’ flight in the wee hours of Friday to JFK airport, New York, via Doha and will be spending 15 days visiting New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Niagara Falls, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, said M K Soman, Managing Director, Soman’s, the tour operator which operated the first US package from India since the pandemic.

First such tour

“We understand that this is not just the first from India but the first ever group tour to the US from anywhere in the world since Covid,” Soman said.

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According to him, his company was constantly on the lookout for such an opportunity through the uncertain days of pandemic which made them the first to make it a reality.

“Since the markets opened, we have already started operating in the European, Russian and Middle Eastern sectors. We were also the first to operate tours to Europe from south India and the second in India after Thomas Cook when we took a group of 32 tourists to Europe on October 18. On October 30, we took another 30 to Russia,” he said.

No US visas issued yet

However, Soman added, taking tourists to the US was a totally different ball game as US consulates had not started issuing visas yet and the company had to find people who already held valid visas.

“Luckily, our marketing team and existing clients responded fast and we were able to find these many people, most of them who were issued visas just before the lockdowns in early 2020 and were waiting for their first trip to the US,” he said.

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As a gesture to instill confidence, Jeena Fernandes, Director, Soman’s, is also travelling with the group.

Soman said he hopes his company, which turns 25 in December, will inspire tour operators and the hospitality industry across the country and the world to shun fear and start operations to make the world a better place with more jobs and more holidaying people.

Published on November 12, 2021

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