The tourism ministry of India is now focussing more on increasing the number of international tourists. The target is to increase the influx of foreign tourists by 12% every year so that by 2016, the foreign exchange of the country doubles. In 2012, 6.6 million international tourists visited India and the country earned almost $18 billion. However, after the December 2012 rape incident, there was a fall in foreign tourists. With the present Narendra Modi’s government giving special emphasis to the tourism sector, it seems things have begun to move to a brighter side. The country has witnessed a rise in tourists, but it is not as expected. The number of foreign tourists increased 10% in 2014 compared to 2013 but the foreign female tourists slipped to 40.8% from 41.2% in 2014.
Major causes of decline of foreign women tourists
• Rapes: Following the Delhi gang rape incident and other cases highlighted in the International media, some western countries warned its citizens, especially females, against travelling to the country. Yes, in spite of the fact that the country is known for its values such as “Atithi Devo Bhava” or “Treating Guests as Gods”, there are have been incidents which have questioned the security of women and have led female tourists to shun India.
• Sexual Assaults & Eve Teasing: It is not only rape, but at times women have also experienced eve teasing. It is very likely that a foreign woman traveller may experience harassments in the form of rude, lewd comments, staring, etc. Men ‘brushing against’ or groping women is very common when travelling in public transport or when moving in crowded areas.
The Government has taken steps to reduce such horrendous crimes against women. The Delhi gang rape forced the government to implement new tougher and strict sentences. Fast track courts were introduced to reassure women of their safety. The tourism ministry is also working on a programme to offer GPS-enabled SIMs to foreign tourists when they land in India. Helpline centres have been formed to provide 24-hours help and support. Plans are in process to make these help centres multilingual so that more and more foreigners can take help when needed. Safety of women foreign travellers is serious matter and should be addressed immediately.
Advisories: Preventive Steps
Various countries have issued warnings, asking women to take “utmost caution’’ while travelling in India. In any country, whether India or anywhere else, all foreign tourists need to follow the rules, regulations and customs of the country they visit. The foreign embassies and consulates in India have advised tourists to be careful and behave cautiously. Some preventive measures that can be adopted are as follows:
• Avoid travelling alone on public transport, especially at night.
• Cabs should be hired from reliable sources from the hotel itself.
• Pre-paid taxis should be used at airports.
• Proper identification of the driver should be verified.
• Foreign women tourists should observe strict security precautions.
• Preferably they should travel with known and trustworthy companions.
• Evening fun should be restricted to well-known venues only and isolated areas should be avoided at any time of the day.
• Hotel room number should be kept confidential and doors should have deadlocks and peep holes.
• Female tourists should dress decently and respect local customs.
In some parts of India, especially the smaller towns and villages, the traditional dressing prevails. There are dress codes for visiting religious places, like covering your head in Gurudwaras, Masjids, visiting temples barefoot etc. It is very essential that foreign tourists should abide by these religious customs to be on the safer side. In fact, in the immigration counters, you find a 13-page booklet on guidelines for foreign tourists.
Things are not so bad as it seems to be…all men are not same
In every country or city, there are good and bad people. It is said when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Every country has its own rules and customs which need to be followed. Same is the case with India. India’s culture is different from the Western countries. It is advisable for all foreign tourists to abide by the country’s traditions and customs.
Yes, it is necessary to be cautious while travelling. But, it will definitely be wrong to say that the moment you enter India, you will encounter men who will stare at you inappropriately. There are countless of men, be it your host, the hotel staff, the taxi drivers, the shop keepers, the pharmacists, among others who in no way treat you as a sexual object.
There are many things to watch out for in India. Leaving aside the tourist spots, the wonderful food, natural heritage, colours, traditions, including the people’s warmth, kindness and compassion will definitely move any foreigner in unexpected ways.