Till November of that year, 2008 saw a significant arrival of foreign tourists in India. The 26/11 attacks completely changed the scenario and India figured in the Global Lists as an unsafe country to visit. So how much has terrorism really affected tourism in India?
Post 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the menace of Terrorism has more or less rocked all nations across the globe. The past decade has not been too kind on India as well as far as terrorism is concerned. India has faced several major terrorist strikes, from attacks on the Parliament to the seize of the Taj and Trident Hotels and a ghastly attack on a few other major spots in Mumbai.
Terror on tour: Taj attacks and German bakery
In the past couple of years though, the terrorists have shifted their target from local people to touring foreign nationals in India. It is a global phenomenon, but there have been two high profile attacks on tourists in India that have grabbed the attention of the world.
The night of 26th November 2008 is one that the world will never forget. Terrorists took tourists hostage at the Taj and Oberoi- Trident Hotels and went on a rampage. The hotels, considered to be Mumbai’s finest and a haven for international tourists were majorly destroyed during the attacks. Hundreds lost their lives, including several international tourists.
On 13th February 2010, a bomb ripped through German Bakery in Pune killing seventeen people including four foreign nationals. Most of these foreign tourists stayed in the nearby Osho Ashram and often frequented the Bakery.
Safety concerns for the world
Alarmed after the 2008 attacks, many Western countries issued advisories to their citizens traveling to India regarding terrorist attacks in the country. Citing the reason that India is believed to be high on the hit-lists of terror groups, they are concerned about the security of their citizens.
India on the other hand, has issued a new visa regulation which makes it mandatory for all foreign nationals to maintain a two month gap between exiting the country and re-entering it. This regulation has been a big blow to tourists who would want to visit the country again.
The falling tourist figures
The Government of India recently admitted that the number of tourist arrivals in India had dropped by 3.3% but also added that the reasons apart from terrorism were global meltdown and swine flu scare. The figure crept down to 5.11 Million foreign tourists in 2009 from 5.28 Million in 2008.
It is not possible to blame the entire dip on terrorism, nor are there any statistics to prove so, but the reverse trend is extremely alarming. Terrorism is no doubt one of the major reasons why tourists are staying away from India.
The ruin of tranquility
Besides, India is perceived as the land of yoga, meditation and serenity by most foreign tourists who visit the country. We all know how different this perception is from reality. Famous as a peace loving nation, India is also an emerging superpower with problematic neighbours and turbulent forces within the country.
Terrorism in India: The bad news and the good news
The 26/11 attacks have scarred the face of tourism in India. The attacks on luxurious hotels were not just an attack on the buildings or the people themselves, they were a pang in the spirit of India. These attacks have also put a dent in the Indian Tourism Ministry’s ambitious projection of having 5 million tourists in India in the year 2008. Also taking a blow was the target of achieving 10 million visitor mark by 2010.
Not to forget, these terror attacks did some good to the Indian Tourism sector too! A new trend of ‘Terror Tourism’ has emerged feeding on the voyeuristic desires of some tourists. This phenomenon was noticed when touts were found charging foreign tourists exorbitant amounts to take them around Mumbai and show them places where the 26/11 attacks unfolded. Now, many travel agencies conduct similar tours.
Terrorist attacks on metro and tier II cities in India have no doubt been a big blow to India’s tourism sector for over a year, but India also seems well on its way to a speedy recovery with efforts being put in to promote India as a safe and exciting country to visit.