A spate of s*x attacks in India, that have made global headlines has affected the number of foreign women tourists visiting India, making the drop by 35% in the past three months, according to a new survey.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) says overall tourist arrivals are down 25 per cent year-on-year, with holidaymakers opting instead to visit other Asian countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.
The fatal gang-r*pe of a 23-year-old Indian student by six men on a bus in New Delhi in December sparked outrage at the country’s treatment of women, but it didn’t stop there; many other cases of molestation had since been recorded in the Asian country.
A Swiss cyclist was molested by a group of men in Madhya Pradesh last month, while a South Korean tourist was allegedly drugged and molested in the same state in January by the son of the owner of a hotel where she was staying.
Such incidents have “raised concerns about the safety of female travellers to the country,” said DS Rawat, secretary general at ASSOCHAM, which surveyed 1,200 tour operators from different cities.
The Indian tourism ministry however found an increase in foreign tourists arriving in early 2013, although figures for March are yet to be released.
According to the Indian tourism ministry, February saw arrivals increase by 1.6 per cent compared with last year, but the percentage is still far lower than the 7.9-per cent growth logged in February 2012.
It was not only the India tourism ministry that disagreed with ASSOCHAM’s report; Gour Kanjilal, executive director of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, also questioned the reported scale of the drop in visitors, but said some potential visitors had been in contact to discuss concerns.
“There is a decline whenever any such incident takes place. Tourism becomes the first casualty,” he said.
The ubiquitous “Incredible India” marketing campaign has helped raise the number of foreign visitors over the past decade to about 6.6 million in 2012 – albeit still far behind destinations such as China and Malaysia.
The rate at which s*x crimes are being committed has raised concerns, and has been a big setback to government attempts to boost the tourism industry, especially during a period of lagging economic growth.
Nearly 72 per cent of tour operators had a number of cancellations in the last three months – usually a busy tourist season – especially by female visitors from countries such as Canada, the United States and Australia.