India’s tourism sector hit by protests over citizenship law
MUMBAI: India's tourism industry has been hit by a wave of violent anti-government protests against a new citizenship law that have rocked several cities this month, with at least seven countries issuing travel warnings.
At least 25 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters, and demonstrations against the law continue.
Officials estimate about 200,000 domestic and international tourists cancelled or postponed their trip to the Taj Mahal in the past two weeks, one of the world's most popular tourist attractions.
"There has been a 60 per cent decline in visitor footfalls in December this year," said police inspector Dinesh Kumar, who oversees a special tourist police station near the Taj Mahal. He has access to visitor data and said the decline was compared with December last year.
"Indian and foreign tourists have been calling our control rooms to check on security. We assure them protection, but many still decide to stay away," he added.
The 17th-century marble monument is in Uttar Pradesh, the northern state that has witnessed the highest number of deaths and intense bursts of violence in two weeks of unrest.
A group of European tourists travelling in a group across India said they now plan to cut short their 20-day trip.
"We are all retired folks, for us travel has to be slow and relaxing. The newspaper headlines have led to a sense of concern, and we will leave sooner than we planned," said Mr Dave Millikin, a retired banker living on the outskirts of London, who spoke to Reuters from the capital New Delhi.
The Taj Mahal, situated in the town of Agra, attracts over 6.5 million tourists every year, generating nearly US$14 million (S$19 million) annually from entrance fees.
The US, Britain, Russia, Israel, Canada, Taiwan and Singapore have issued travel advisories. -REUTERS