December is the busiest month for foreign tourist arrivals in the country. However, operators are bracing for a decline this month. The ongoing unrest in the country among other things has impacted the hospitality sector during the peak season of the year. As protests against the amended Citizenship Act continue across the country, the tourism industry has taken a hit this holiday season, with stakeholders of the country’s tourism industry maintaining that many domestic tourists were looking to spend their winter vacations abroad, in view of the law-and-order situation.
Foreign tourist arrivals slowed down to fewer than 3 per cent in the first 10 months of this year. Several countries have issued serious travel advisories for India, owing to the mounting tension in the country due to the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019. The United States (US), Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), Saudi Arabia, Russia, Australia and Israel have warned their citizens who are currently in India or planning a visit to India to exercise caution and refrain from visiting places that are controlled by protestors.
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 the northeast. Ensuring the 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.
Assam tourism is the worst hit due to the ongoing protests against CAA. This has lead to many visitors cancelling their bookings. As per the state’s tourism department, Assam has already faced a loss of more than INR 400 crores in revenue collection during this period.
Assam Tourism Development Corporation Chairman – Jayanta Malla Baruah mentioned that it will definitely hamper the tourism sector and its revenue collection if this situation continues. Reports state that while in 2018, the state tourism department had a revenue collection of INR 1200 to 1500 crore, out of which 30 per cent was collected alone in the month of December, whereas this year, the tourism sector has collected just around INR 300 to 400 crore till now.
Immediately after the onset of unrest in NE region or Bengal over CAA issue, US Embassy and Consulates in India issued its travel alert. They exercised caution to the U.S. citizens in the northeastern states of India and have said to temporarily suspended official travel to Assam.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the UK advised the same to its citizens who are travelling to North-East India, especially in Assam and Tripura.
Despite having been largely peaceful during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 protests witnessed in the region in the past few days, Agra has witnessed a sharp slowdown in its tourism sector, as per reports. They say the violence that erupted across the state has cast a shadow on all tourism-related businesses of the Taj city this holiday season.
“Over the past few days, many hotel bookings have been cancelled. This is primarily due to the ongoing anti-CAA protests in various parts of the state. About 40-50% bookings have been cancelled by guests in different hotels,” said Sandeep Arora, President, Agra Tourism Development Foundation.
Not only hotels but restaurants and emporiums too were reporting a sharp reduction in business. “We are also getting requests for cancellation of future bookings — again both by domestic tourists and foreigners. Although we are trying to convince the guests that Agra is safe and there is no tension due to the elaborate safety arrangements put in place by the Agra administration and the police, it doesn’t seem to be working,” he added.
The tourism sector in Mysuru (Mysore) is feeling the heat of the current protests against CAA cross the country. Though palace board officials say that the impact is not significant and the variation in tourist flow is marginal, hotels in the city aver that there is a 20% drop in tourist inflow compared to the same period last year.
Narayan Gowda of the Hotel Owners’ Association said the fall is significant as the peak year-end tourism season commences from the second week of December and lasts till the first week of January when there used to be 100% occupancy. “Almost all hotels in the city used to register cent per cent occupancy rates during this period if one goes by the trends of the last few years. But there has been a 20% drop so far and the occupancy rates hover around 80% in most hotels. If the protests continue, the footfall is bound to decline further,” said Gowda, hinting that stakeholders will brace for a further decline in tourists arrival if the protests continue.
Industry experts are of the view that hotel bookings too have bore the impact of these protest. Owing to the current state of affairs, there would be a fall in the hotel bookings during the Christmas – New Year period as compared to the same time last year. “The impact of the current situation will last for a long time. Not only will this curb domestic travelling but foreign travellers are also to get affected. We are expecting a dip in the total hotel bookings as against last year but exact number would be clear in 2-3 days,” said Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI).