India Insight

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.

A tourist takes a photograph in front of the Taj Mahal in the tourist city of Agra May 15, 2006. REUTERS/Brijesh Singh

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.

(Full coverage of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games)

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.

Commonwealth Games besieged – now diseased?

Plagued by endless corruption accusations, vast overspending claims and huge construction delays, you would be forgiven for thinking none of Delhi’s inhabitants were overjoyed about the city’s upcoming Commonwealth Games.

But you’d be mistaken, at least according to India’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

On Sunday, he said that the construction sites for the Games, which kick off in just over 40 days, were providing perfect conditions for the city’s mosquitoes, and laying the blame for the city’s record-breaking dengue outbreak squarely with the organising committee.

No criticism please, we’re Indian

Suddenly, it is not cool to be against the scandal-plagued Commonwealth Games.

A commuter walks past the Commonwealth Games 2010 mascot in New Delhi October 3, 2009. REUTERS/Parth SanyalThe CWG was meant to be Delhi’s big coming-out party, India’s assertion that it is a global powerhouse capable of doing what China did with the Beijing Summer Olympics two years ago.

Instead, the Games, scheduled for October, are turning out to be a costly embarrassment, with daily revelations of corruption, fraud and political wrongdoing that has triggered big headlines and much hand wringing by outraged citizens, sportsmen and even politicians.

But suddenly, being against the CWG is almost unpatriotic.

In an “emotional appeal” with a visual of the Indian tricolour published in all leading newspapers on the weekend, industrialist Subrata Roy flayed the “recent continuous and negative media coverage” that has left organisers and volunteers feeling “totally demoralised and dejected”.

In Kashmir, India now struggles with “children of conflict”

Kashmir has been seething since early June. Life across the Muslim-majority valley has been completely disrupted by curfews and protest strikes since some of the biggest anti-India demonstrations in two years erupted a month ago.

A Kashmiri Muslim man crosses a deserted road marked with graffiti during a curfew in Srinagar July 16, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/FilesSeventeen people, mostly teenage protesters, have been killed by security forces in near daily pro-freedom demonstrations fuelling anger across the disputed Himalayan region.

India blames Pakistan-based militants for the ongoing Kashmir protests but Kashmiris say the protests are spontaneous.

Reactions from the common man

Opposition parties held a one-day general strike to protest a fuel price hike by the government. Reuters finds out its impact in New Delhi and whether Delhiites support the strike.

Fuel price hike: Reactions from the common man

The government raises petrol prices by 3.5 rupees/litre and decides to make them market-determined. Diesel gets costlier by 2 rupees/litre and cooking gas by 35 rupees a cylinder.

Reuters spoke to people in the streets of New Delhi to get their reaction.

PANKAJ (senior manufacturing analyst, GM motors)

ANUBHAV SRIVASTAVA (member, RTI foundation) 

DISHITA (freelancer at an ad agency)

GAURAV (a student)

(Flip cam videos by Rohan Dua)

Europe-bound passengers stranded at Delhi airport

Europe-bound passengers were still stranded at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport on Tuesday, five days after European airports were cut off from the rest of the world by a huge volcanic ash cloud. Some of the affected travellers spoke to Reuters at the airport about their desperate efforts to get home.

Polish tourist Joanna was travelling from Sri Lanka to Poland.

Paolo Ficara, an Italian, has returned to India after a visit to Nepal and Bhutan.

Tomasso Berreti, also an Italian, was supposed to fly back to Italy three days ago.

Who are the Commonwealth Games for?

INDIA-COMMONWEALTH/GAMESAs India races to get ready for the Commonwealth Games, graffiti questioning their mass appeal has appeared over the last few weeks near some of the venues hosting the October event.

The graffiti in English, a language many middle-class well-to-do Indians are proficient in, questions the Games’ focus.

“Pro-rich anti-poor CWG sucks” says one scrawl. Another is hopeful “the Games are a disaster”. “No to Games” reads one peremptory message.

Afghan endgame and fears of rise in Kashmir violence

The Indian army says rebel violence will escalate in Kashmir in summer as hundreds of militants are waiting in the Pakistani part of Kashmir to infiltrate into the Indian side and step up attacks.

Seized bullets are displayed by the Indian army during a news conference after a gun battle with militants, in Srinagar March 28, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliEven an internal assessment of the Home Ministry says the summer of 2010 will be as bloodier as or even worse than the mid-nineties.

In Kashmir, violence involving Muslim rebels and Indian troops was on the decline since India and Pakistan, who dispute the region, began a peace process in 2004.

Separatists make contact with China to ‘discuss’ Kashmir

The chief of Kashmir’s moderate separatist alliance recently met a Chinese delegation in Geneva, the first such contact by Kashmiri separatists with Chinese officials since a simmering discontent against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

Mirwaiz Umar FarooqMirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, met the Chinese Director Foreign Affairs, Ying Gang, in Geneva on the sidelines of the 13th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council and discussed Beijing’s possible role in the resolution of the dispute.

“It was a good gesture as the government of China had earlier avoided meeting us,” Farooq said.

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