BEIJING – Chinese travellers who flock tourist destinations across the world during the Chinese New Year in January are expected to skip India owing
to the scare caused by the Mumbai attack. Thousands of Chinese tourists have cancelled their plans of visiting India over the next few months. There are a few signs of fresh bookings by business travelers but hopes of attracting leisure tourists appear dim, tour operators and other players of travel industry said.
“The Chinese traveller is usually very risk averse. We had a lot of cancellations on flights to Mumbai,” Rahul Jain, the head of Air India’s Shanghai office told TNN. “We are keeping out fingers crossed about the bookings during the Chinese New Year in late January,” he said.
Winter is regarded as the best time for Chinese travellers, most of whom visit India for business. The Mumbai attack has come as a severe blow to the Sino-Indian travel industry at a crucial time when Chinese travellers had just begun to consider India as a destination for leisure travel as well. Most Indian tour operators fear that the impact of the Mumbai attack will linger for several months and severely reduce the inflow of Chinese visitors to India.
Several Indian travel agencies said groups of business travellers have cancelled bookings for destinations like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi since the attack.
Tour operators said Chinese travellers were keeping away from India because of the negative portrayal of the Mumbai incidents in the local media. The Chinese media focussed on security lapses on the Indian side and also pointed out that the response from the commandos was much too late after the incident. “Is there nothing we can to do help the Chinese media understand the Indian point of view?,” a tour operator asked.
Ironically, it is the Chinese themselves who will suffer a little because of the cancellations. Most of the 300-odd Chinese who had planned to be present during a China Commodity Fair in Mumbai from December 10 have pulled out, Vikas Dua of Pettitts India, a travel agency, said.
“There is 70-80 per cent cancellation of Chinese bookings for all Indian cities,” Sameer Mahajan, Thomas Cook’s general manager said.
But there are signs of hope amidst the general sense of gloom in the travel industry concerning India as a destination for Chinese tourists.
Zhong Hong Yi, director with UTS, a major Chinese travel agency, said the Indian industry may consider focussing less on Mumbai and promoting other places of interest for some time now.
Chinese travellers may avoid Mumbai for some time but they will continue to remain interested in other places in India. “We had a steady stream of tourists after the Sichuan earthquake to other places in China. Similarly, India is a vast country with many other places of interest,” he said.
Zhong does not think the Taj Mahal hotel management should be blamed for security lapses. “This could have happened in any hotel in any city of the world. But the Indian government should take additional measures to ensure the safety of tourists in future,” he said.
Arun Anand, vice president of the Indian Association of Tour Operations today told a gathering of Chinese travel industry representatives that India is now more safe than what it was before the Mumbai attack. India is more aware of the dangers of terrorism and it will do whatever is necessary to ensure such an incident does not happen again, he said.
“There is a lot of interested for the Indian market in the Chinese tour industry. I feel we will be able to attract a lot more tourists from China in near future than what we have achieved so far,” Shoeb Samad, director with India Tourism, said today after organising a conference to showcase Indian travel market to Chinese players.