India moves to reassure tourists amid wave of protests across the country

India moves to reassure tourists amid wave of protests across the country
Published: 20 December 2019 - 8 p.m.
Tour operators in New Delhi and other parts of India have been forced to go into overdrive to assuage the concerns of foreign tourist clients and partners amid ongoing unrest in the country, according to experts, sister publication Arabian Business reported.

Tourism industry insiders have hinted that popular tourist hotspots – including New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – may face a wave of cancellations and postponements by foreign tourists for a second year in a row during the Christmas and New Year travel period.

Last year, Delhi and other northern Indian cities saw sharp declines in both foreign and domestic tourist arrivals due to severe pollution.

Embassies of several countries – including the UAE – have issued advisories to their citizens to exercise caution in visiting parts of India due to the ongoing protests and unrest.

“24-hour media coverage of violent clashes between protesters and police in some of the select areas of the capital, east and northeast India is doing significant damage to the tourism industry in India, as it raises concerns on the part of foreign tourists who have already booked their holiday trips to the country,” Pronab Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) told Arabian Business.

“We are now in an all-out effort to reach out to foreign tourists who have already booked with our member networks and also with our partners in the major countries from where India receives the most number of incoming tourists to assuage their concerns, telling them this only happened in very few areas that are not part of the tourist spots,” he added.

So far, Sarkar said, IATO’s members have not reported many cancellations by foreign tourists.

Industry analysts said that since many foreign tourists booked their holiday trips to India well in advance, they may still be monitoring the situation before making a final decision on their trips.

While violent clashes between protesters and police were reported on Tuesday in Delhi and other parts of the country, many protesters – particularly student groups – have largely maintained peaceful protests to earn public sympathy.

Opposition political parties have also been appealing for peaceful protests to deny the government and its supports any ground to allege that the ongoing unrest is not spontaneous and is fanned by vested interests to create division among religious groups.

Tourism industry circles said that while Delhi and nearby cities may see a dip in tourist arrivals, other tourist destinations – such as Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu – are unlikely to see any significant impact, as the protests there have remained largely peaceful.

“So far, we have not seen any cancellations by foreign tourists and we do not anticipate also any cancellations this season,” Rajesh Pillai, general manager at Kochi-based Intersight Tours and Travels, told Arabian Business.

“This could be the case for the southern region as well,” Pillai said, adding that “in fact, they expect more tourists to come to the southern region this year”.

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