HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

Delhi gang rape hits India image, 25% fall in foreign tourists

Mahua Venkatesh & Anupama Airy, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 31, 2013
First Published: 00:07 IST(31/3/2013) | Last Updated: 11:41 IST(31/3/2013)

The image of ‘Incredible India’ has taken a massive beating in the past three months since the Delhi gang rape, resulting in foreign tourist arrivals falling 25% and an even bigger drop, 35%, in women tourists.

A study by industry body Assocham says 72% of tour operators in India reported a significant increase in cancellations, especially by women travellers, in these three months.

Several countries have issued advisories to their citizens to avoid India in the wake of the brutal December 16 gang rape, which was followed by a seemingly endless series of sexual assaults on women reported from across the country.

The hotel industry, already in a tight squeeze due to the economic slowdown, has taken a body blow. No wonder then that it’s pulling out all the stops to woo women with an array of safety features.

Most large and mid-sized hotels are promising female guests — whether travelling on business or leisure — a safe and comfortable stay.

Women no longer have to wait in lobbies but can check in right in their rooms. Many hotels have dedicated floors for women with added security and female staff, including butlers. Tighter screening of phone calls and a close watch on transport services, whether from the airport or elsewhere, are also included.

“The safety of women guests is our top priority and it is our constant endeavour to improvise the best hospitality practices and luxury for them,” said a spokesperson for the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi.

Lemon Tree Hotels, which saw a 60% increase in women guests in the last five years, believes it is crucial to ensure the safety of single women travelers.

"The number of women travelers is expected to rise significantly with an estimated 117 million Indians likely to join the workforce within the next decade," said CEO Rahul Pandit.

It's not just security features, hotel chains including the ITC Group, Taj Group, Hilton Hotels and Lemon Tree Hotels are throwing in complimentary spa treatments and gourmet meals to pamper their female guests.

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