British tour operators assess impact of Mumbai strikes on tourism

November 28th, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 28 (IANS) British travel agents who operate tours to India are bracing to face a dip in the number of tourists following the terror strikes in Mumbai, but they are hopeful that gradually travellers’ confidence will build up again.The high season for British tourists travelling to India is between October and March, reaching a peak just after Christmas. Three-quarters of a million British visitors arrive in India each year. Mumbai is not primarily a leisure destination, with most travellers there on business or in transit.

With luxury hotels being the target of the latest strikes in Mumbai and the gunmen said to be looking for Britons or Americans, the operators suspect they may see a fall in the number of visitors in the coming weeks.

Philip Grierson, marketing director for Cox & Kings, which specialises in tours to India, said: “It remains to be seen a bit more about what this was all about, and whether it was really aimed at tourism, or undermining the Indian government.

“What we’ll probably then see is a significant drop in prices from hotels and possibly airlines. We’ve seen that sort of thing before in Egypt after terrorist activity and gradually confidence builds up and the place gets back to normal.”

All the British tour operators are now calling up their clients who have already booked on tours to India via Mumbai. So far, there have not been any cancellations.

“We’ve been ringing around all the people who are imminently due to go to India and all of them have said that they are happy to go ahead with their tours through Delhi. There seems to have been quite good resilience being shown by our customers,” Grierson said.

TransIndus, a British operator that offers tailor-made holidays to India, sends 30 to 40 clients through Mumbai on a daily basis this time of the year.

Amrit Singh, a director for the company, told The Independent: “I think it’ll affect it quite seriously. I don’t think we will get very many cancellations but fresh booking will certainly be much lower.”

Grierson said two British tourists who had booked their visit to India through Cox and Kings had been stuck in the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, which was one of the 10 Mumbai landmarks attacked by terrorists Wednesday night. They were later reported to have been evacuated and will shortly be returning to Britain.

The operators’ optimism that the Mumbai strikes may have little impact on tourism stems also from the fact that British Airways has decided against cancelling any of its flights to Mumbai.

A British Airways spokesperson said: “We’re operating our normal twice-daily service. The situation is being kept under review.”

However, passengers are being given the option to either defer their travel to India or change their destination from Mumbai to another Indian city.

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