INDIA has lost ground in the German market as a result of the rape cases which have tarnished the destination's image.
Marco Polo Reisen suffered a 15 per cent drop to India last year, with managing director Holger Baldus saying “the drop has not reached the bottom yet”. Michael Frese, CEO of REWE Touristik, reported a “substantial decrease”. Thomas Tischler, president, Tischler Reisen, said on average, India is down 25 per cent for German tour operators.
Said Frese: “This is the sort of issue that spoils the reputation of a country. It’s a disaster.”
“The (negative) image people have right now of India is unfair as India is a super country, its people very welcoming. India should do something,” he said.
Frese said German travellers to India are a different clientele from the beach holiday market to places such as Bali and Thailand. “They go on roundtrips for the culture and for education. I don’t think they are afraid (of being raped). They are not comfortable or do not want to support the destination. It’s all about perception,” Frese said.
Making matters worse, departures cannot be done when the minimum number of pax is short even by a few. “If 10 people are secured and 15 is the minimum number, you can’t run the tour. A retail agency then tells his client, well, the last tour was cancelled, so there is no guarantee if this one would go, I recommend you go somewhere else.”
Baldus said: “Sales are down despite a weak rupee and lower hotel rates. Prices are down at least 10 per cent; India is such fantastic value for money, yet travellers feel it’s not the right time. They don’t feel safe.”
India’s DMCs are feeling the impact even though, as Ashish Sehgal, senior general manager-sales, Creative Travel, said: “In our history, not a single customer of ours has faced this because we use licensed guides, reputable hotels and drivers.” The DMC is doing an education series with partners on guidelines for travelling in India and inviting them on fam trips.
Amaresh Tiwari, managing director of AT Seasons & Vacations Travel Delhi, said: “India Tourism should do more. It needs to hire PR companies and engage the international media to write about India as a destination. It is poor in handling the media and PR; it should consider PR not as an expense but an investment to improve the image of the country.”
Girish Shankar, additional secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said reported decreases in tourists are “abberations”, pointing out that there has been a four per cent or more increase in arrivals, with female travellers comprising 40 per cent of total visitor numbers.
He said India is working to dispel perceptions of the country as unsafe for women under the ongoing Incredible India campaign by addressing queries of tourism partners at its roadshows, increasing the number of ladies invited on fam trips to India and issuing a general advisory on the Incredible India website with guidelines for travellers to follow. A press conference on Tuesday also saw a German travel writer brought in to share her experiences travelling in India. “Is that not enough?” he asked.
For other stories, go to TTG Official Daily – ITB Berlin 2014