Iconic tourist spots in India see decline in footfall as positive coronavirus cases rise

Updated on Mar 05, 2020 05:19 AM IST

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said that there were 28 coronavirus cases in India, including the three in Kerala who were treated and discharged from hospital last month. The number rose to 29 later .

Tourists wear a protective mask in wake of coronavirus, as they visit Taj Mahal, in Agra on Wednesday.(ANI photo)
Tourists wear a protective mask in wake of coronavirus, as they visit Taj Mahal, in Agra on Wednesday.(ANI photo)
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram/Patna/Agra/Jaipur/New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

The rise in positive coronavirus cases in the country, and an increase in cases around the world, has started to impact the Indian tourism industry, with a drop in footfall at some iconic locations and cancellations at hotels over the past week.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said that there were 28 coronavirus cases in India, including the three in Kerala who were treated and discharged from hospital last month. The number rose to 29 later in the evening, with a man who works in Gurugram also testing positive.

As a precautionary measure, the Union government has suspended all visas from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Iran, and started screening all inbound international travellers at 21 airports.

Experts said on Wednesday that the spread of coronavirus would have a major impact on the industry because a large number of foreign tourists who visit India come from China, Japan, Korea and several European nations. After visitors from the UK and the US, Chinese tourists make up the largest chunk of India’s foreign tourist arrivals, said officials. In 2019, e-visas were issued to 228,945 travellers from China.

The effects were visible in some of the popular tourism locations.

The Archeological Survey of India (ASI), which manages entry to the Taj Mahal, said there was a fall in visitors this week, but did not specify the exact numbers. “It is clear that the footfall of visitors at Taj Mahal is lower in comparison to the previous week,” said an ASI official who asked not to be named.

His comment appeared to get a corroboration by Rajeev Saxena, vice-president of the Tourism Guild of Agra, who said that there were large-scale last-minute cancellations at hotels in the city. “Bookings are being cancelled in bulk after restrictions on tourists coming from China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan,” he said.

“Though tourist inflow usually decreases during this time of the year, the coronavirus scare has further affected the numbers,” he added.

In Vrindavan near Agra, famous for its annual Holi celebrations, the Iskon temple has banned entry of foreign visitors for the next two months. The Holi festivities on March 9 have also been cancelled. Bodh Gaya, where the Buddhist monastery and Mahabodhi temple are situated, has also witnessed a drastic fall in the number of tourists.

Gaya’s superintendent of police, Rajeev Mishra, said about 20,000 tourists, including domestic and foreign guests, visited the monument on January 31 this year. “On March 3, hardly 1,000 foreign and domestic tourists were at Bodh Gaya, much lower than normal,” he said.

Rakesh Kumar, president of tourist guides’ association in Bodh Gaya, said that occupation at hotels in Bodh Gaya has been thin since the beginning of February after first suspected case of coronavirus was reported in Bihar on January 25. “Even monasteries of various countries, which otherwise appear throbbing with visitors in this season, appear desolate these days.”

The trend was visible in Kerala, too, where the sector has seen a slowdown because of two consecutive floods. Industry managers said they were witnessing bulk cancellations ever since the virus outbreak. Usually November to March is considered the best tourism season in the state, and the outbreak was reported in the middle of the season.

The first three cases in the country were reported in Kerala in February. All the three patients left the hospital after being fully cured.

“Since uncertainty looms large all over the world, this time impact is really severe in Kerala. In February-March all tourist destinations were booked much in advance but most of them were cancelled after the news broke,” said state tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran. He said despite two floods there was a 4.84 % increase in foreign tourist arrivals in the state in 2018-19 but the virus outbreak has derailed all the gains.

In Rajasthan, where a 69-year-old Italian who was part of a group that visited six districts has tested positive for the virus, started screening tourists, especially foreigners at important tourist sites for the disease.

Rajasthan tourism minister Vishwendra Singh said there was no need to panic. “There is a slight decline in the flow of tourists but the situation is not alarming. We have cancelled Holi programme at tourist locations. I am hopeful after Holi, things will normalise,” he said.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, December 08, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals