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Terror takes its toll on tourism

Tourism in India tided over the worst months of slowdown with aplomb. But it was hit hard, as expected, by the Mumbai terror attacks, reports Prasad Nichenametla.

delhi Updated: Jan 13, 2009 00:15 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

Tourism in India tided over the worst months of slowdown with aplomb. But it was hit hard, as expected, by the Mumbai terror attacks.

A compilation of foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) from the Ministry of Tourism for December 2008 shows 5.22 lakh foreign tourists arriving in India. The figure for the corresponding period in 2007 was about 5.75 lakh. This means that in December alone, India lost about 50,000 foreign tourists — a drop of 9.2 per cent.

Tourism contributes to about 6.23 per cent of the GDP and provides direct or indirect employment to more than 50 million people in the country.

During the peak of the meltdown — in the months of September and October — tourist flow actually increased by 9.6 and 1.8 per cent over the corresponding months in 2007. Clearly, the tourists who preferred to tour the country in times of global meltdown seem to have stopped on their tracks because of 26/11.

But FTA growth, on the whole of 2008, was half of its growth rate in 2006 and 2007. FTA growth in 2008 stood at 5.6 per cent compared to 2006 and 2007 when FTA grew by 12-14 per cent. The tourism ministry, however, claims that the 5.6 percent growth in 2008 is better than the global average.

“The World Tourism Organisation has predicted a growth rate of 2-3 per cent for international tourist arrivals in the world during 2008. Therefore, the Indian scenario is much better than world scenario,” said a ministry statement.

Tourism bodies, however, do not share the government’s optimism. “At a time when we were expecting an 18 to 20 per cent growth, a growth of about six per cent is discouraging. The lack of growth is due to terrorism and slowdown,” Subhash Goyal, chairman of the ASSOCHAM Expert committee on Tourism, said.

Union Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni had last month requested the Prime Minister to announce an incentive package for the sector.