India’s total foreign tourist arrivals jumped last year but the number of foreign women travelling to the country slipped during the same period amid concerns about safety of women following the December 2012 gangrape.
Tourism ministry statistics show the main countries that logged a decline in female foreign tourists were Germany, Bangladesh and the Russian Federation while the number of women from Sri Lanka, the US, Canada, UK and Malaysia increased during this period.
The number of foreign tourists increased 10% in 2014 over the previous year while foreign female tourists slipped to 40.8% from 41.2% in the same period.
India’s tourism industry took a hit after the 2012 gangrape made international headlines, prompting the government to introduce a host of security measures such as a travel advisory with tips for foreign tourists, including suggestions on dressing in line with the country’s traditional culture.
The country’s global image as a safe destination suffered following a series of sexual attacks on foreign women in recent years.
“Some parts of India, particularly the smaller towns and villages, still have traditional dressing. Dress codes for some religious places can include covering your head, being barefoot,” says a 13-page booklet given to foreign tourists at the immigration counter.
According to sources, the tourism ministry is also working on a plan to hand a GPS-enabled SIMs to foreign travellers when they land in India.
“Safety of women foreign travellers is a matter of serious concern for us. We are taking several steps. We have started helpline numbers in two languages which we propose to make multilingual,” tourism minister Mahesh Sharma said.
“India’s culture, including that of dressing, is different from the West. We are not imposing anything on anyone. This is simply advice.”