Whether floating along the Ganges River at sunset, climbing the steps of the Taj Mahal or tracing the path of the imposing sandstone Red Fort, tourists flock to India for an otherworldly experience in the heart of Hindu culture with all the amenities of the modern world. The tourism industry, though, has had to battle issues ranging from government red tape to pervasive security threats in pitching this populous South Asian destination.
Government regulations in India frustrate tourists and tour operators alike, with ever-shifting visa rules that can leave visitors in the lurch and create inconsistent enforcement. Many have called for India to start offering visas on arrival, like other nations competing for tourist dollars. The tourism industry is also weighed down by infrastructure problems once visitors arrive, including inadequate roads, water, sewer, hotels and telecommunications. Airports have been expanding in an effort to accommodate more passengers. Tourist facilities have a lack of skilled workers to fill all the positions to cater to international visitors. Service, luxury and transportation taxes are high, and hit visitors in the pocketbook when planning a trip to India.
Attacks on Women
India tour operators reported a 25 percent drop in business over the first quarter of 2013 after the high-profile slaying of a 23-year-old woman who was gang raped riding a bus in Delhi the previous December. With the case inspiring other victims of sex crimes to bring their stories into the light, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India said female tourism dropped by 35 percent that same quarter. The U.S. State Department reports a "modest increase" in violent crime against foreigners and cautions women against traveling alone in India, using public transportation after the sun has gone down and going to isolated areas.
India is in a constant state of tension with its fellow nuclear neighbor, Pakistan, and the U.S. government has long warned travelers to avoid the restive border and disputed Kashmir. The threat of terrorism to tourists hit closer to home in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, when gunmen fired on a train station platform, cafes and luxury hotels; the victims included 28 foreigners from 10 countries. Since then, smaller-scale bombings conducted by Islamic extremist and insurgent groups have continued against some public places frequented by Westerners. Tourists have to wade through a continually shifting slate of warnings. U.S. citizens with Pakistani bloodlines who try to obtain a visa for India feel the weight of this extra security in the additional wait time they experience for entrance approval.
Concerns About Industry Growth
Despite the influx of overseas cash that tourism brings to a country, one challenge for the tourism industry in India comes from within. Concerns about the potentially negative impact of tourism here include economic boons for some areas but not others and resulting migration of workers, underemployment caused by seasonal work, inflation as tourists drive up prices and preferences given to tourists for supplies such as water rations. There are also concerns about the environmental impact of tourism on an already crowded country and the potential wearing down of cultural monuments from overuse.