Foreign tourist arrivals in India and the country’s foreign exchange earnings from them grew at the slowest pace in a decade in 2019, government data showed.
Tourism industry experts and airline executives attributed the slowdown to multiple factors, including street protests over the new citizenship law and elevated levels of pollution in northern India, including Delhi. Several countries had issued travel advisories to their citizens over both issues.
About 10.89 million foreign tourists visited India in 2019, an increase of 3.1% from the year before, the tourism ministry informed Parliament earlier this month, citing provisional data. The year before, arrivals grew 5.2%, while in 2017, the expansion was 14%, showed data from the tourism ministry and the Bureau of Immigration.
Forex earnings from inbound tourists rose 8.2% to INR 2.2 lakh crore in the past year. The growth was 9.6% in 2018 and 15% in 2017, according to figures from the ministry and the Reserve Bank of India.
The government hasn’t made any assessment of the impact on tourism from agitations against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), minister of state for tourism Prahlad Singh Patel said in his reply to a query in the Lok Sabha on February 3. But travel industry experts said this was one of factors, especially towards the latter part of the year, that affected the plans of both leisure and business travellers.
“We saw a significant spurt in queries (from potential travellers) and we issued more advisories cautioning corporate travellers last year than we have done in the recent past,” said Neeraj Balani, the Indian managing director for SOS International, a global medical and travel security risk services company. It has clients from more than 1,000 cities in 90 countries. Without getting into specifics, Balani said global companies had cancelled meetings in India in the last few months of the year.
In December, at least seven countries, including the US, UK, Israel, Canada and Singapore issued travel advisories cautioning their citizens planning to travel to India, especially to the north-eastern region which saw widespread protests against the CAA.
Pollution is the other major problem that has affected tourist arrivals in Delhi, the city that attracts most number of tourists in India — the country’s capital received 42% of all foreign tourists who visited India in 2018, according to government figures. ET on November 5, 2019 reported how foreign and domestic tourists were cancelling or cutting short their trips to Delhi because of the worsening air quality at the time.
While some airline executives said there was a slowdown in arrivals, an executive at Cathay Pacific said there was no spike of flight ticket cancellations. Another executive at a foreign airline said inbound travel to India had never been “a significant story”.
“India is yet to be successful in making a big story of its inbound tourism sector. The largest chunk of foreign tourist arrivals is from Bangladesh…,” he said.
To be sure, foreign tourist arrivals constituted a mere 0.5% of all tourists in 2018. In 2019, Bangladeshis accounted for 21.37% of foreign tourist arrivals followed by the US, (13.80%) and the UK (9.75%).
From: Economic Time
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