The number of female tourists visiting India has fallen by more than one-third since the Delhi gang rape in which a 23-year-old student was killed, according to a survey by the country’s Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Following the Delhi attack, a Swiss couple on a cross-country cycling trip were attacked in the state of Madhya Pradesh and the woman was gang-raped as her husband was held at gunpoint. Four days later, a British woman in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, jumped from a second-floor hotel room when she feared the manager was attempting to break in.
The association says in its report, which surveyed 1,200 tour operators from cities across India: “The inflows of women foreign tourists to the country have gone down by 35 per cent and the overall tourism [has fallen] by 25 per cent”. In particular, women travellers from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia were cancelling in large numbers.
The organisation’s secretary-general, D S Rawat, said the cases had “raised concerns about the safety of female travellers to the country”. He said that tourists appeared to be switching to other Asian countries, such as like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam.
India attracted 6.6 million overseas visitors last year – which, given the size and diversity of the country, is a tiny figure. France receives more visitors in the average month than India does in a year. One in eight of the tourists to India is British.
The official Foreign Office travel advice warns: “Women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men”. It says “British women have been the victims of sexual assault in Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan,” and warns “Women travellers should exercise caution when travelling in India even if they are travelling in a group”.
India’s tourism ministry aims to increase foreign tourist arrivals by 12 per cent a year and double foreign-exchange earnings by 2016. As well as the highly publicised attacks on women, prospective visitors may also have been deterred by high visa fees. Rates doubled in January, with a normal tourist visa costing £92.