Safety concerns among women travelers following a brutal gang rape in India’s capital last year helped trigger a 25 percent drop in foreign tourist arrivals in the last three months, a study said.
The number of female visitors to India has fallen as much as 35 percent since the December assault on a young medical student in New Delhi, according to the survey of 1,200 tour operators nationwide by Assocham, one of India’s largest business lobbying groups. The slowdown, which has reduced visitors to historic sites such as the Taj Mahal in Agra and Jaipur’s forts as well as the capital, came during the peak winter season for travel to India.
Struggling economies in Europe and the U.S. were also cited as a reason for the decline in tourist numbers.
The Delhi rape shocked India and reverberated around the world, triggering street protests and drawing attention to the scale of sexual violence against women in the world’s largest democracy. India’s government has toughened sentences for sexual assaults amid the public outcry.
Delivering further blows to India’s tourism industry, a 39-year-old Swiss woman was raped in Madhya Pradesh state last month, while a British woman jumped out of her hotel in Agra, telling police she fled fearing an assault by staff.
In India, a woman was raped every 22 minutes in 2011, the most recent National Crime Records Bureau data shows
Several nations issued travel advisories urging their citizens to be cautious or avoid traveling to India following the recent attacks.
Foreign tourists have picked other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam, the survey said. About 72 percent of the tour operators questioned said bookings had been canceled, especially from women tourists from the U.K., U.S., Canada and Australia, according to the poll.
India’s tourism ministry is seeking to increase tourist arrivals by 12 percent a year up to 2016 to double foreign exchange earnings. In 2012, about 6.6 million international tourists visited India, earning the country $17.74 billion.