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Tourist rush to India after SARS hits far east

Tourism in India has witnessed a spurt as fear of deadly SARS disease drove tourists away from other destinations in far east.

india Updated: May 06, 2003 14:57 IST

Tourism in India has witnessed a sudden spurt as fear of the deadly SARS disease drove tourists away from other destinations in the far east, a top official said.

"There was an increase of 8.5 per cent in foreign tourist arrivals last month as India remained largely unaffected by SARS", Reshmi Verma, additional director general, Ministry of Tourism, said.

Verma, who is here to attend the Arabian Travel Mart, the premier travel show in the West Asia beginning on Tuesday, said there were instances in April when groups booked for China cancelled the tour and headed for India.

Tourist arrivals got a boost as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India SARS-free and because of which there were no mass cancellations of group tours from the West to India recently, she said.

There is no ban in India on flights from the SARS-hit countries in the far east but vigorous health checks are being conducted on passengers coming in, which helps in preventing the spread of SARS to India, she said.

Describing the high air fare from the West Asiato India as a discentive to tourism, Verma said the tourism ministry was in talks with the state governments to slash the High Air Turbine Fuel (ATF) tax, the main reason for exhorbitant fares.

"States like Andhra Pradesh have drastically reduced the ATF from 39 per cent to 4 per cent and other states like Goa and north eastern states were reviewing the ATF tax rates," she said.

Verma said the Tourism Ministry has launched a three-pronged campaign in print media, electronic media and the web to sell the brand concept of "incredible India" abroad.

As a result of the campaign, there was a 16 per cent increase in arrivals during October-February last, she said.

Seven states -- Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Uttaranchal - and Union Territory Pondicherry were participating in this year's ATM here.

India's annual foreign tourist inflow is around 2.5 million, a little less than what Dubai gets during its month long shopping festival. Fifteen per cent of the foreign tourists coming to India are from the West Asia.

First Published: May 06, 2003 14:57 IST