Foreign tourist arrivals slowed down to under 3 per cent in the first 10 months of this year. The ongoing protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act, which have sometimes resulted in violence, could hurt growth further, fear tour operators. Foreign tourists are postponing their India holiday and there have been some cancellations as well, with trips to the North-East seeing the most adverse impact.
“Bookings have been slow this year. There has been one bad news after another, but little damage control from the government,” said Rajeev Kohli, former vice president of Indian Association of Tour Operators.
December is the busiest month for foreign tourist arrivals in the country. However, operators are bracing for a decline this month
. "We were anticipating 7-8 per cent growth in arrivals in December, but now we may actually see a degrowth of 2-3 per cent due to tourists deferring their India visit," said Subhash Goyal, chairman of Stic Travels. Trips to North Eastern states have been cancelled in view of ongoing protests and advisories from foreign governments.
Five countries — Russia, Canada, US, UK and Israel — have asked their citizens to exercise caution while visiting India, especially the North Eastern states. Canada has asked its citizens to avoid non- essential travel to Assam and its neighbouring states. "While we are assuring our overseas travel partners, tourism and external affairs ministries should engage with foreign governments to explain the actual situation on ground," Goyal said.
Over 8.5 million foreign tourists came to India between January-October, a growth of 2.7 per cent on a year-on-year basis. While arrivals in 2018 rose 5.2 per cent to 10.5 million, growth has slowed down in 2019.
Kohli believes the impact of countrywide protests on tourism would be short-term in nature. "There is no safety threat to tourists as such, and protests are confined to certain parts in each city," he said. Apart from working with airlines and hotels on refunds and rescheduling, tour operators are seeking better presence at international airports. "We are concerned about customer experience and are trying to assure guests through greater handholding and dedicated presence, right from arrival to departure. We have also asked authorities to allow us enhanced presence at key airports, so that the customers are adequately supported at all times," said Rakshit Desai, managing director of FCM Travel Solutions.
"We are in the middle of the high season and hoping for the situation to calm down. We have not received any cancellations," said Homa Mistry, CEO, Trail Blazer Tours India.