NEW DELHI, India – Advisories against travel to India during the holiday season have been issued by US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The reason given is a terror threat at this time, but the Indian government isn’t buying it. It fears the advisories will hit tourism and says terror shouldn’t be used to create a scare about visiting India.
“I have taken up this with the external affairs ministry and asked it to persuade these countries to withdraw the travel advisories immediately,” Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay told TOI. “This is nothing but scaremongering. Leave aside other parts of India, 100% booking is being reported from Jammu & Kashmir. If this isn’t a sign of normalcy, what is?”
The industry is understandably jittery as it fears a cancellation rate of 10-15%. Adverse advisories tend to hike travel insurance as the risk factor goes up. So, instead of coming to India, many tourists may opt for other destinations like Thailand, Sri Lanka and China. A delegation of top hoteliers, travel agents and restaurant owners met Sahay to convey their sense of dismay. Apart from taking up the matter with the foreign secretary, the minister also raised the issue in France at a meeting of tourism ministers of G-20 countries on Monday, while expressing his concern at the “barriers” that are likely to obstruct growth of tourism in India.
Foreign tourist arrivals in India between January-August 2011 have seen an encouraging 10% growth (in absolute terms, 3.8 million tourists came to India in this period compared to 3.4 million last year). However, India is still beaten hollow in tourism by small Asian countries like Thailand. While India’s share is 0.59% of the world’s share of global arrivals, Thailand’s is 1.62% and China’s 5.8%. While our most popular beach gets 2.7 million foreign tourists in a year, Phuket gets 5 million. The Taj Mahal gets 3.1 million foreign tourists a year while the Great Wall of China gets 10 million.
With India’s potential barely realized and five countries issuing advisories against travelling to India during the festive season, the Indian hospitality industry is worried.
Hotel Association of India president Nakul Anand said that the advisories issued from large source markets like US and UK would impact the inflow of business and leisure travelers in the country. “Given that it has been issued at the start of what is typically perceived as the beginning of the tourist and business season in India, it is bound to impede the forecasts for the industry,” he said.
Travel Agents’ Association of India president Rajinder Rai said that the advisories will spell trouble for the industry. “We have taken up the issue with the tourism ministry demanding that the advisories be withdrawn. It’s a completely unfair practice,” he said.