Foreign tourists offer flowers in Bodhgaya, India, last year in remembrance… (Manish Bhandari / Associated…)
Female tourists are avoiding India and canceling trips there after violent rapes made headlines around the world, according to a business association based in New Delhi.
The number of tourists coming to India has fallen 25% since December, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India found in its recent survey of 1,200 tour operators around the country -- a trend that frustrates government plans to ramp up the number of tourists by 12% every year.
Women are even more likely to steer clear of India: The flow of female travelers has plunged 35% as women from Britain, Canada and the United States scrap tours they had already booked, local businesses told the group. Many said tourists had sent them emails wondering whether traveling in India was still safe.
“India attempts to enhance its image in the eyes of foreign tourists,” D.S. Rawat, secretary general of the association, said in a statement published on the group's website. Instead, the reported attacks have “raised concerns about the safety of female travelers to the country.”
In December, the deadly gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi triggered an outpouring of protest in India and around the world, spurring new debate over how the country handles sexual assaults and prodding the government to pass new legislation.
Since then, more attacks have garnered attention in global media, shedding new light on a sadly common and routinely unreported crime. The most recent victims included a Swiss woman assaulted last month in Madhya Pradesh. Days later, a British woman said she leaped from her Agra hotel window to avoid the unwanted advances of the hotel manager.
Tourism has tumbled in cities scattered all over the country, not just those where the most infamous attacks were reported, the business group found.
Fewer tourists flocked to the massive Maha Kumbh Mela festival, for instance. Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and other cities have also suffered. The group said travelers are opting for Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines instead of India.
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