October marks the beginning of peak tourist season in India; however, this year, tour operators, hoteliers and other members of the travel industry are facing anxious moments due to the ongoing situation in Israel and Russia. From the Russia-Ukraine war, the India-Canada row to the Israel-Gaza turmoil, inbound travel to India is expected to take a hit, especially in beach destinations like Goa and Kerala, even as the tourism sector recovers from the aftereffects of the pandemic.
“Our state has been a preferred destination for Israelis, especially youngsters, for many years. We were expecting charter flights from Israel for the first time this year. But, the plan may not materialise because of the ongoing situation,” said Nilesh Shah, President of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa to Outlook Traveller.
Foreigners at a market in GoaShutterstock
Shah added that the Russia-Ukraine war has had a bigger impact on inbound tourism.
“In the pre-COVID times, we used to get almost 4-5 flights of Russian tourists a day. Now we are getting five flights a week. Last year, we just got one-third of what we were getting earlier. This year, we are hopeful for at least 70 per cent recovery, but it looks difficult due to the war, which is shows no signs of abating.”
For Abdul Nazir MM, the President of the Kerala Tour Operators Association, less tourist turnout from Russia is concerning.
“Being a coastal state, Kerala gets the highest number of tourists from Russia. However, post-pandemic, and in the wake of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the tourist footfall from the country has slumped. For us, it is one of the significant countries with the highest arrival of foreign tourists.”
Nazir, however, added that the ongoing Israel-Gaza war has not hampered the tourism prospects of Kerala.
A beach in GoaShutterstock
Aashish Gupta, consulting CEO of the Federation of Associations in Tourism and Hospitality, says that the ripple effects of the ongoing conflicts will be felt in the entire travel industry.
“If we talk about the Israel-Gaza conflict, it has shut down travel in the region. It may not have a huge impact on the Indian tourism sector. However, it will certainly affect travel to and from the Middle-Eastern region for leisure, meetings and conferences,” he said to Outlook Traveller.
“As for inbound tourism, the peak season is October-March. With the pandemic easing out, our travel industry hoped for a better season; however, the recent turn of events worldwide has played a spoilsport, resulting in travel restrictions.”
Gupta added that people don’t feel confident to travel internationally in the existing circumstances.
“There is a sense of fear prevailing among tourists who are rejigging their international travel plans. In the case of India, the inbound sector is yet to recover fully. The domestic market has redeemed itself by 70-80 per cent; however, international tourism is still not getting us the numbers. With the Israel-Gaza conflict breaking out during our peak travel season, the inbound tourist sector will only dwindle.”
Countries worldwide are being extra cautious as they impose travel restrictions to ensure the safety of their nationals living in other countries. In the wake of a diplomatic row with Canada, India had cautioned its citizens to stay vigilant, followed by an advisory that imposed visa suspension and travel restrictions.
Recently, the United States also issued a global advisory, advising its nationals overseas “to exercise increased caution when in locations frequented by tourists, citing that the increased tensions in various locations worldwide have the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests.”
“Being the largest overhaul tourist market for India, the US advisory will hamper travel from the country, our largest inbound source market,” said Gupta.
Other factors that have contributed to the decline in travel globally include the hike in crude oil prices, which has led to a rise in airfares. “Situations like wars or diplomatic rows have an underlying effect. The rise in crude oil prices lead to increased airfares, which eventually deter passengers from travelling,” added Gupta.
The Saving Grace
For representational purposesShutterstock
Factors like G-20, World Cup, IPL, and weddings have led to tourism revival in India to a great extent. However, the inbound travel industry sector still needs a boost.
“Between 2019-20, India received around 11 million foreign tourists, of which 70-80 per cent of tourism happened between October-March. However, post-pandemic, the inbound tourism sector has not recovered fully, unlike the domestic industry, which has recovered fairly. Events like wars worsen the recovery efforts,” Gupta added.
Source : Outlook Travel