New Delhi: India on Tuesday objected to advisories issued by the US and other countries that warned of heightened possibility of terror attacks during the Diwali festival season, saying they were “disproportionate”.
“We have conveyed to them that the language of these advisories is disproportionate. We will continue to impress upon them that the language should be proportionate and moderate,” Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters when asked about his reaction to the travel advisories.
Five countries -- the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- have issued advisories against travel to India during the festive season.
Mathai said that these countries are obliged under their legal systems to issue such advisories warning their citizens of the possibility of threats to their security. He added that the advisories were based on reports in the Indian media.
Mathai said that Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai spoke to him about the travel advisories and expressed his objections to them. The Tourism Minister informed him that there has been an increase in the number of tourists to Jammu and Kashmir, he said.
The representatives of the hospitality and tourism sectors have also taken up the issue with the foreign office.
The ostensible reason for issuing the travel advisory given by these countries is the possibility of terror attack during the festive season, which can endanger the lives of their citizens if they happen to be in India.
However, this move has created a panic in the tourism industry and the government also fears that the hospitality sector will be severely hit by it. The travel industry now fears cancellations of around 10 to 15 percent of bookings if the advisory is not withdrawn.
The government is of the view that terror cannot be the ground for keeping India in ‘dangerous countries to visit’ listing.
A delegation of top hoteliers, travel agents and restaurant owners have reportedly met Sahai, and expressed their concerns.
A top officials of the Hotel Association of India, has expressed fears that the travel notice from major countries like US and UK would impact the inflow of business and leisure travellers and direct them to other country, particularly China where the security situation is much better.
In view of this, many foreign tourists, instead of coming to India, may opt for other destinations like Thailand, Sri Lanka and China.
As per the tourism sector statistics, foreign tourist arrivals in India between January-August 2011 have seen an encouraging 10% growth (in absolute terms, 3.8 million tourists came to India in this period compared to 3.4 million last year).
However, India still lags behind small Asian countries like Thailand. While India`s share is 0.59% of the world`s share of global arrivals, Thailand`s is 1.62% and China`s 5.8%. While our most popular beach gets 2.7 million foreign tourists in a year, Phuket gets 5 million. The Taj Mahal gets 3.1 million foreign tourists a year while the Great Wall of China gets 10 million.
Although, India has a vast potential in the tourism sector but the travel advisory issued by five countries during the festive season, the hospitality industry here has every reason to be jittery.
(With IANS inputs)