Amid rising protests in Tamil Nadu against Sri Lanka over its alleged war crimes against ethnic Tamils, the tourism industry in India has taken a big hit. The number of travellers from the island nation has fallen by 10-15 per cent in February-March, compared to the year-ago period, according to the Indian Association of Tour Operators (Iato).
“Whenever such a political crisis arises, tourism becomes the first casualty. We have already witnessed a drop of around 15 per cent in incoming traffic from Sri Lanka. The main concern is the fact that it may become even worse as the government is still in a dilemma on the whole issue,” said Gour Kanjilaal, executive director, Iato, which has over 1,600 members nationwide.
Sri Lanka’s national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, has decided to cut its service by 50 per cent in the Colombo-Chennai route after some Sri Lankan nationals were recently attacked in Tamil Nadu. The Sri Lankan government had also issued a travel advisory to its citizens to “exercise caution” when travelling to Tamil Nadu. Chennai is the gateway for travellers to and from Sri Lanka.
A top official of a travel portal company also said the impact was already being felt. “Not only the incoming traffic, but Indian travellers also visit Sri Lanka with a lot of enthusiasm. The impact of this crisis wold be felt on both fronts,” said the official, who requested anonymity.
Many Indian companies also operate in Sri Lanka and business travel promotes tourism between the countries. The recent controversy will dent that prospect as well, say tour operators. The crisis has also taken a toll on bilateral trade.
Many monks from Sri Lanka travel to India to visit religious places. Sri Lankans also come to India due to medical reasons. “We have seen many people of the island nation are now canceling their IPL (Indian Premier League) fixtures for which they had booked tickets in advance,” added Kanjilaal.