The recent spurt in crimes against foreign tourists has seriously dented the image of “Incredible India” and led to a chorus of protests from industry representatives. Says Nancy Castelino, Head (Marketing), Mercury Travels: “Several women have been attacked in Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan. The poor law and order situation can drive tourists away. The government needs to make tourists feel secure again.”Though the tourism industry has been booming, with increased foreign tourist arrivals and greater foreign exchange earnings—it stood at nearly $6.5 billion (Rs 26,000 crore) in 2007, up more than 25 per cent over the previous year—there has been a trend reversal in recent times.
Already, countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and France have issued travel advisories to their citizens planning to visit India. Says Yogesh Selarka, COO, Raj Travel World: “If tourists begin choosing other Asian destinations like China and Singapore over India, the industry will be doomed.”
Tour operators say there are other issues as well. Says Castelino: “The stronger rupee has impacted profit margins and high room tariffs are driving tourists out of the country.” In fact, room tariffs in five-star hotels in India are double those in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Cambodia and Vietnam, she says.