India – an unsafe destination for women travellers

NEW DELHI: The UK foreign office issued a travel advisory cautioning its citizens on travel in India whose image as an unsafe destination for women travellers was further consolidated after a 51-year-old Danish woman was gang-raped in New Delhi, Indian media reported.

“Such incidents are disgraceful and cause serious damage to the image of the country. It is scary that time and again such incidents continue to happen,” said Rajinder Rai, advisor to the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI).

In a recent survey conducted by Assocham, it was revealed that women foreign tourists to India had declined by 35% and overall tourism was affected by 25%.

The number of foreign tourists coming to India grew a modest 4% between January and December 2013, coinciding with women travellers’ perception of the country as a safe destination hitting rock bottom. This is less than the 5% growth in 2012 and 13% in 2011.

According to data from the World Travel Organization, expansion in foreign tourist arrivals worldwide was pegged at around 5% during the first nine months of 2013.

India’s total foreign tourist arrivals in 2013 stood at 6.84 million. In comparison, China received 132 million and Singapore got 14 million (end-2012 figures) visitors.

The Industry sources said women travelers were skipping India from their itinerary.

“The last one year has caused deep concern among first-time visitors who feel that India is unsafe as a destination. We try our best to reassure them but there is little that can be done with the increasingly regularity of such crimes against women,” a hotelier said.

In a bid to quell the panic, the tourism ministry has introduced a ‘I respect women’ campaign that includes advertisements and promotions addressing these concerns. The ministry has also issued an advisory on its website cautioning women.