Gateway of India, Mumbai
Safety concerns that marred India’s tourism image in 2015 may now be a thing of the past for the country’s tour operators.
Indian inbound tourism recorded sluggish growth in 2015 after a number of crimes against international travellers, especially women, were widely reported in the global media.
“Our image took a beating at that time but now everything has settled as nothing untoward relating to the safety of an international tourist has happened in recent times. I don’t see it as any challenge for the growth of inbound tourism today,” said Arun Anand, managing director, Midtown Travel.
Further bolstering confidence, India’s Ministry of Tourism in February 2016 launched a 24/7 toll-free tourist infoline in 12 international languages to assist tourists visiting India, said Riyaz U C, managing director, Spiceland Holidays.
As well, SATTE 2017 witnessed the launch of India Assist, the country’s first mobile app that assists foreign travellers in times of distress. The app can connect international tourists to a call centre for assistance and provide the exact location of the caller.
The app founders are currently in talks with airlines and insurance companies to promote the service.
Harish Khatri, founder, India Assist, said: “Most foreign travellers take travel insurance before travelling, but that only covers a set of things like cancellation of trips, medical emergencies abroad and baggage loss. But what about situations related to safety or getting lost in the city? We are going to bridge this gap.”
However, a tour operator commented on the condition of anonymity: “Steps like a tourist helpline are superficial ways that serve little for the safety and security of a foreign tourist. What we need is dedicated tourist police in every state. We can’t afford any more negative reportage concerning tourist safety.”