Monday, December 8, 2008

India: to go or not to go?

Stephen McClarence, who has visited the country 15 times, reflects on the calculations that have to be made by prospective holidaymakers in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

After the terrorist attack on Mumbai, readers planning visits to India have written to ask advice. Should they go? Is it worth the risk? Is there a risk at all? One reader, due to fly out shortly before Christmas, says he "booked a tailor-made tour of northern India and naively did not think there was much risk of terrorism other than in the Kashmir region".

As a travel writer, I face a similar problem. My wife and I are due to fly out on a month-long trip on December 20, taking in Delhi and more remote areas in central India. We have visited the country 15 times, for up to five months at a stretch. We have had no problem with violence, though we have at times been made aware of terrorism and insurgency.

On one occasion, we learnt that the train before the one in which we were travelling to Assam had been bombed; on another, we were on our way back to Delhi when the parliament building was attacked by militants.

We reassured ourselves that a billion people live in India, that it is an enormous country and that in most places terrorism is unknown. As the Foreign Office says on its travel website: "Most visits are trouble-free." But another part of the site's advice is likely to worry potential tourists. This says: "There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India, including attacks targeting places frequented by foreign visitors and expatriates."

Last weekend, I looked at the Foreign Office's pages on India for the first time this year and was shocked to find that, since May, there have been eight attacks, mostly bomb blasts, killing more than 400 people and injuring more than 1,000. The attacks have targeted cities visited by many of the 730,000 Britons who travel each year to India: Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, as well as Mumbai.

Because the attacks didn't have the high profile of those in Mumbai, they received less coverage here. Now, though, disturbing news breaks by the day. Four Indian airports are on high alert following warnings of 9/11-style hijacking attempts, and security has been stepped up in Goa, a state popular with British tourists.

The threat of terrorism is now a fact of life in some parts of India and tourists are understandably nervous. Some have cancelled trips or tried to delay them, though tour operators are not obliged to give refunds unless the Foreign Office gives warning against all but essential travel.

There is the counter-argument that the country is never going to be safer than in the wake of the Mumbai attacks: the authorities are making every effort to restore confidence by ratcheting up security. Equally, there's a profound wish, which will be shared by many tourists, to show solidarity with a nation whose hospitality to strangers is, in my experience, unmatched. So theoretically one should go ahead

What to do? We are monitoring developments and regularly checking the Foreign Office website, which, incidentally, also alerts us to high threats of terrorism in Spain and Turkey. So where exactly is safe?


  1. ahh dont worry!!!

  2. I feel there is no need to worry, take ane example of 9/11 attacks in newyork where people in surrounding builds have stared going to offices from next day itself and they were not scared of the attacks.
    the same is the case in mumbai, and other parts of the country. India is a big country no one can disturb its unity.

  3. There is no risk involved in visiting india. India is a large(more than one billion population) and beautifull nation to visit. Terrorists attacks in mumbai will not stop india. one should not be scared to visit india just because of terrorists attacks. Indian security forces has already taken steps to avoid such attacks.And its going to be tough time for countries who are supporting terrorists, India wouldn't tollerate such countries.
    Definetely India is a place to visit.

  4. aah nothing to worry about.. India has decided that it won't take this anymore. So things are bound to improve eventually.. till then my country welcomes you.. feel at home in the cradle of the civilization and pot!!.

  5. For many years now India has been a very popular tourist destination, owing to the gamut of exhilarating variety and uniqueness that it offers in its expanse. In order to reap the benefits of this interest and willingness of people to tour India, it is of utmost interest that the travel and tourism industry is strengthened and accurately incised. Especially, in the cities of the developing countries like India, the revenue coming in from the travel and tourism sector that be properly tapped and appropriately utilized by grooming and employing skilled and experienced professionals in the travel and tourism industry. In the Indian cities like Bangalore the big names from the hospitality circuit have properties and are keen on opening more properties. Most of the major players of the hospitality industry have hotels in Bangalore. The rise in the number of the Bangalore hotels requires more and more trained and able professionals from the hospitality sector. As Bangalore is booming as a promising financial hub, the number of foreign business travelers and business delegates has also increased. Under such conditions it is not just enough to open world class budget hotels in Bangalore but also to have a staff that matches the international standards of hospitality. To achieve this goal it is of utmost importance that India fuels up the momentum in setting up of travel and tourism institutions that are at par with the international standards.