Early in 2008 signs of an economic downturn emerged mainly due to aviation fuel hikes and high air ticket costs and started showing impact on the entire world tourism industry. Tourism Sector started further suffering from reduced consumer demand. Business & leisure and tourism business felt credit crunch due to economic meltdown in USA, UK, Germany, France etc. Recent tourism forecast of UNWTO showed about 20-25% of decrease in tourist arrivals occurred worldwide. In India also visible downturn was around 10 to 15% till the situation suddenly changed with terror attacks in Mumbai post 26/11 and went up to 30% cancellations. Travel advisories and travel insurance withdrawn due to terror attacks in Mumbai and totally crippled the tourism industry in India and since November the downward trend continues. For the first time the growth figure came down to single digit whereas till September 2008 India maintained about 14% year on growth for last 5 years.
No doubt, in such negative happenings, tourism becomes the first casualty. In the case of India, the industry was feeling it more as Mumbai terror attacks could not have come at a worse time i.e. October-March which is the peak tourist season in India. Nearly 50% of international tourist arrival takes place during this period.
The day after the 26 November terrorist attack, cancellations started, from the tourists who were already in India and were scheduled to visit Mumbai, Goa etc. after North India. They cut short the tour programme and returned to their respective countries. The immediate impact was really bad as post 26 November, cancellations took place not only for Mumbai hotels but all over India even South India. It is unfortunate tourists are yet to understand the vastness of India. We need to educate them about the fact it is of the size of Europe and events in one corner do not necessarily affect the whole country. In fact our media specially electronic media should be more responsible in airing their views. It further damaged when advisories followed by clear cut instructions by the foreign governments to their citizens to desist from traveling to India. Resultant effect brought in sharp fall in tourist arrivals. Since then during October the growth came down to single digit 1.8% from double digit
figure and weak after 26/11 attacks in Mumbai it came down to negative growth. Instead of 15% growth what we had projected, the year may end with 9% or even less.
The situation not only call for strict security measures but need to be projected regularly in global media to create confidence. The visibility is the main objective and that means aggressive publicity in global markets. Hotels have introduced many safety measures but still tourists from overseas often ask what measures the hotels have taken for safety and security of tourists. Outside the hotels, there should be gunman visible, with X-ray machines, metal frisking, plain police, police van, with force ready to challenge. No doubt it may give some impression of excessive checking but will be very befitting to give the right message that hotels are ready to meet the challenges. Tourists won't mind, they bear it in U.S.A., U.K., China, Egypt, so they can bear in India also.
Tourism needs to be protected in India as it provides over 50 million jobs directly and indirectly, contributes 5.83% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and brings in foreign investments. We should not loose the business to our competitors. It will impact negatively for our economic growth. We hardly can afford such lacadaical approach.
Government has now to play a very active role. Tourism Ministry must update the global tourists through e-mail, i.e. Reassurance messages must go from Prime Minister, Tourism Minister and who can extend welcome to tourists. Even missions abroad be pro-active in holding Press Meets, press briefings and talk about safety measures initiated and in India every thing is back to normal.