The tourism industry has received yet another blow, following Saturday’s explosions in India’s Capital, New Delhi, which killed at least 59 and wounded 210.
Two of the bombs exploded in crowded marketplaces and one on a bus in a residential neighborhood.
The sychronised attacks, which occurred as the nation was preparing for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, failed to prevent India and Pakistan from agreeing to ease travel restrictions across Kashmir.
There was a show of remarkable resilience as stores in Indian marketplaces hit by the explosions reopened for business and New Delhi residents resumed their lives.
A previously unknown Kashmiri militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to television reports on Sunday.
Whilst life seems to have gone back to normal fairly rapidly in New Delhi, hospitality professionals are concerned that these attacks will deter travellers from taking trips to India.
A US travel advisory to its citizens travelling to New Delhi, to stay low and avoid crowded places, is likely to have added to those concerns.
RK Kaushik, secretary, Hotels and Restaurants Association of Northern India, said: “The beginning of the tourism season in Delhi which indirectly caters to the whole of North India between the months of October and March has been affected. More travel advisories from European nations and USA would only discourage tourists from entering Delhi”
The timing is particularly bad, as two US airline carriers are on the verge of launching new routes into India, in a bid to capitalise on the booming tourism market between the US and India. (520, 000 US citizens visited India In 2004),
However, Continental Airlines announced Tuesday that plans to launch a non-stop service between the United States and India have not been deterred. The service will commence Wednesday.
“Continental will be making history tomorrow by linking these two great nations with non-stop flights for the first time,” said Jeff Smisek, president of Continental Airlines. “The launch of our New York-Delhi non-stop service is an important addition to Continental’s significant international growth.”
American Airlines are also planning a US-India non-stop service. Delta airlines and Northwest are currently exploring new potential routes into India.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has sent a message of support to the tourism industry, offering their sincerest condolences to those affected:
“This is yet another example of terrorist groups’ attempts to undermine confidence and cause widespread destruction and chaos. It is clear that these explosions were intended to cause maximum damage in places frequented by people from all religions”.
WTTC commends the Indian authorities’ speedy response and the determination on all sides that this atrocity will not deter peace talks in Kashmir.
Jean-Claude Baumgarten, President of WTTC said, “Our hearts go out to the people of Delhi who have been hit at a time which should be for celebration and festivity. The global Travel & Tourism industry stands ready to support this city, so rich in culture and energy, as it emerges from the devastation of these attacks.”
Mr Baumgarten continued, “Despite the recent attacks in various corners of the world, the Travel & Tourism industry continues to show resilience. People must continue to travel in order to defeat the terrorists’ aims and to spread peace and understanding across continents and between peoples.”