By James Mathew
Maximum tourist arrivals from the Middle East region to Kerala and other tourist centres in India take place during June-July when schools and colleges have vacation
Freak weather conditions and spurt in pollution levels are taking a toll on tourism in India, with trade officials estimating a 10 percent fall in international tourist arrivals during in the festival season this year.
While heavy rains in Kerala during July-October have led to a 10 to 15 percent fall in international tourist arrivals during the period, a sudden spurt in pollution in Delhi is leading to last minute change of destinations or postponement of arrival plans of international tourists to the capital city, according to tourism trade officials.
“Back-to-back monsoons in Kerala has affected tourist arrivals in Kerala during July-early October period, with initial estimates put the fall in international tourist arrivals at 10 percent,” an official closely associated with Kerala Tourism department, told Arabian Business. The official did not want to be identified as the estimate is not yet made official.
“Luckily the period till October is lean tourist season in Kerala. From October onwards, most of the inbound tourist operators and hotels are getting heavy enquiries and bookings and we are hopeful of an increase in arrivals during the current October-March season,” the official said.
Tourist arrivals from the Middle East region to Kerala and other tourist centres in India tend to peak during June-July during school holidays. No data on this year’s arrivals from the region was immediately available.
Even as tourist enquiries and bookings in Kerala, Goa and other centres in south and western Indian are picking up, Delhi is witnessing sudden cancellations and people cutting their holidays short as thick and hazardous smog envelops the capital.
“Besides tourists – both international and domestic, even business travellers too are either cancelling or postponing their trips to Delhi due to the spurt in pollution level in the city,” Gaurav Chawla, managing director of Swan Tours, a Delhi-based leading tour operator, told Arabian Business.
Officials at Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), national tour trade body, however, have said that only fresh tourist bookings are affected because of the increase in pollution in Delhi.
“The fear on account of pollution in Delhi is expected to affect only fresh tourist arrivals to the city as visitors may avoid the capital city,” Pronab Sarkar, President, IATO, told Arabian Business.
“Tourists who have already booked are coming and no large-scale cancellations are reported,” he added.
Incidentally, hotels, resorts and home stays in major tourist centres such as Goa and Keral are reporting increased last minute bookings on account of tourists and residents moving out of Delhi.
“We are getting increased bookings in the last few days through all channels. Tourists and residents from Delhi are coming to Goa in large numbers, while those who are staying here currently are extending their stay because of pollution in Delhi," Guitry Velho, GM, Heritage Village Club in Goa, told Arabian Business.
Many hotels in Kerala, including CGH Earth Leisure Hotels, have also reported improved bookings in the last few days.