By James Mathew
Indian operators write to their counterparts in Gulf countries to allay apprehensions in travelling to India due to coronavirus scare
With the peak season for tourist arrivals from the Middle East to India fast approaching, Indian tourist operators body, as also its individual members, have started writing to their counterparts in UAE, Saudi Arabia and other major countries in the region to ward off apprehensions about visiting India due to coronavirus scare.
Peak season for tourist arrivals from the Middle East countries to India is between June and July when schools and colleges there are closed for vacation.
“We are doing whatever we can to assuage the apprehensions of foreign tourists, including that from the Middle East countries, in visiting India due to coronavirus-related fear,” Pronab Sarkar, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), told Arabian Business.
“Bookings by Middle East tourists to India generally start a month before the season (June-July) starts. So, as of now we have no indication on what could be the situation this season,” Sarkar said, adding that widespread media reports about coronavirus cases in India are bound to affect tourist bookings this season.
“The main news in most of the leading dailies in India today (Tuesday) was about coronavirus hitting the capital (Delhi). What has happened is that just one person in Delhi is suspected of infected with the virus and he is already quarantined. This type of fear mongering by media is the major reason for the fall in tourist arrivals and bookings,” Sarkar said.
Officials at the industry association body, however, said they expect a fall in tourist arrivals from the Gulf countries this season.
Though the situation in India on the coronvirus front by far is considered not alarming and under control, the spreading incidence of the virus infection in the Middle East region is also causing concern among Indian tourist operators about the prospects of tourist arrivals from the region this season.
“There is reluctance on the part of tourists to travel in the current situation,” a senior executive with Delhi-based Swan Travles, told Arabian Business.
The ‘Golden Triangle’ that covers Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and Kerala are among the preferred tourist destinations for travellers from the Middle East. Among the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia and UAE account for the larger share of tourists to India.
The coronavirus scare has already hit Indian tourism, with foreign tourist arrivals in India are estimated to have fallen by about 25 percent in the first two months of this year, from the same period a year ago.
Though an IT professional who came back from Dubai is reported to have tested positive for coronavirus infection in the south Indian city of Hyderabad, India has so far not put any travel restrictions or advisories in travelling to most of the Gulf countries, except Iran.
The IT professional had gone to Dubai last month where he is believed to have caught the infection while working with people from Hong Kong.
So far, there were 5 cases of people who have tested positive for the virus and another suspected case. Of these, the first three persons – all in Kerala - have already been cured and are currently kept in isolation at their homes.