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Tourism takes a hit as Chinese stay at home

NEW DELHI: The spread of Wuhan coronavirus has cast a pall on the Indian tourism industry as tens of thousands of travellers from China are cancelling bookings, with many more to follow suit unless the outbreak is contained quickly, experts said.

India on Sunday temporarily suspended the e-visa facility for Chinese travellers and foreigners residing in China. Tour operators report numerous cancellations by Indian professionals and tourists to China, as well as South East Asian countries.

China is third behind the UK and the US in availing e-tourist visas to visit India. Chinese had accounted for 7.2%, or 97,294, e-tourist visas issued between January to July last year as per tourism ministry statistics.

“This will have a big impact; 30,000-40,000 travellers from China visit India in January-February alone,” said Pranab Sarkar, president of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO). “We have requested airlines and hotels to waive all cancellation charges for Chinese travellers. Everyone is cooperating.”

A tourism ministry official said developments will start impacting inbound Chinese numbers for the year if the outbreak is not contained soon. “If the outbreak is controlled by next month, then all countries will also lift these restrictions,” the official said. “We are all in the wait and watch mode.”

Chander Mansharamani, vice-chairman of The India Convention Promotion Bureau, said professionals from India are cancelling travel to China for conferences and exhibitions. “There are a lot of cancellations for MICE conferences to China,” he said.

IATO said it supports the decision to suspend e-visas for Chinese travellers. “Whatever steps the government is taking, we will follow them,” said Sarkar.

Source: Economic Times