Citizenship law stir: Foreign tourists anxious, Indians prefer overseas destinations

Kolkata
As protests against the amended Citizenship Act continue to rage in parts of the country, tourism industry has taken a hit this holiday season, with several nations deeming India as an unsafe travel destination.
Stakeholders of the country”s tourism industry maintained that many domestic tourists were also looking to spend their winter vacations abroad, in view of the law-and- order situation.
“We have been getting apprehensive calls from overseas tourists who wanted to know about the ground situation in the country, having read media reports. There had been no major cancellations or rescheduling as of now,” Jyoti Mayal, the president of Travel Agents Association of India, told PTI.
If the unrest continues, however, cancellations are bound to happen, she claimed.
Over the past few days, countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, UAE and Australia among others have issued advisories, asking travellers to India, especially to the northeast, to be on guard or reconsider plans.
The industry, which had not seen a significant rise in the number of visitors earlier this year, is skeptical that the ongoing protests would hit harder.
According to data, foreign tourist footfall in the first half (H1) of 2019 showed a marginal growth at 52.66 lakh, 2.2 per cent more than the corresponding period in 2018.
Government forex earning (fees) grew by 3.3 per cent to USD 14.11 billion in H1, 2019, when compared to the same period in 2018.
Last year, foreign tourist inflow during the first half had grown by 7.7 per cent over the year before, and forex fees earning was up 12.6 per cent.
Leading tourism company SOTC Travel said customers have switched preferences, giving northeast states a miss this season, in view of the protests.
“We, at SOTC Travel, are taking necessary steps, given the current situation in northeast. Ensuring safety of our customers is of utmost concern. Many of them have found alternative options in Kerala and Andamans,” Daniel D”souza, the president and country head (Leisure) of SOTC Travel, said.
Almost every year, east and northeast India witness an increase in tourist footfall during the winters, with several vacationers flocking to Assam, Sikkim and north Bengal.
This year, however, there might be a dip in the numbers, Thomas Cook (India) president and country head (Holiday, MICE, Visa) Rajeev Kale said.
“With the recent citizenship law agitation rocking the east and the northeast, Thomas Cook India has seen demand dampening for these destinations,” he explained.
Mayal observed that enquiries for overseas destinations have increased manifold.
While some domestic customers are planning trips to Rajasthan, Goa and the southern parts of the country, the numbers of bookings to Dubai and south Asian countries have also increased, she said.
“Travellers are not compromising on their plans.
Several of them are looking to visit short-haul destinations like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia,” she added.

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