With the Games to come, 2010 looking rosy for India tourism
Tourism is big business in India and according to new figures released on Wednesday, business is booming.
Despite continued warnings of the threat of militant attacks in the country and sluggish growth in international traveller numbers following the global downturn, India’s tourism numbers bucked a downfall last year to post close to double-digit growth last month, resulting in an almost $1 billion windfall for the industry.
Foreign visitors jumped 9 percent during August compared to last year, with 382,000 entries during the month. A cumulative total since January of 3,467,000 is up 9.7 percent on 2009, according to India’s Ministry for External Affairs.
For India’s hotels, restaurants, tourist sites and shops, higher visitor numbers means higher revenues — in August, revenues touched $992 million, an increase of $70 million from the same period last year.
Perhaps most encouraging for industry players, and the government’s Incredible India tourism campaign, the rise in visitors comes during a year that has seen bomb attacks and civil unrest.
In April, two bombs exploded at a cricket stadium in the southern city of Bangalore, Karnataka, injuring 17 people. That attack followed a similar bombing in the western city of Pune in February that killed nine and foreign offices around the world were moved to list India on their list of dangerous countries for travellers.
Even today, the UK’s Foreign Office warns: “There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. Recent attacks have targeted public places including those visited by foreigners.” The U.S. State Department website carries a similar message.
In 2008, the UK and U.S. provided the most tourists to India, with 30 percent of the total number of visitors, according to government statistics.
While Wednesday’s figures are certainly worth toasting, for Delhi’s tourism industry disappointment may just be around the corner.
October’s Commonwealth Games were expected to provide a surge to the nation’s tourism industry, with some estimates predicting that up to 100,000 foreign spectators would flock to the event, filling hotels, restaurants and markets.
To date, however, the prophesied surge is more like a trickle. Just 2,000 of the 15,000-odd rooms set aside by the government for spectators have been snapped up.
Furthermore, in a strange twist, New Delhi’s traffic companies have revealed that bookings for holidays out of the capital during the games period have spiked, as residents plan to flee the inevitable chaos that will surely ensue, according to media reports.
As India’s hoteliers nervously watch and wait for the promised deluge of visitors to appear over the next few weeks, at least the tourism figures make for enjoyable reading.