A new survey suggests a highly publicized fatal rape of a young woman in New Delhi has scared many tourists off visiting India. The story made headlines around the world last December.
The survey released on Monday by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) shows that the overall number of tourists to visit India in the first three months of 2013 was down by 25 percent compared to the same period one year ago. Among female holidaymakers the decrease was even sharper, at 35 percent.
The secretary general of the organization drew a clear correlation between last December's fatal rape, as well as a number of highly publicized attacks since then, and the marked decline in the number of tourists.
Such incidents have "raised concerns about the safety of female travellers to the country," D.S. Rawat told the AFP news agency.
The executive director of the Indian Association of Tour Operators questioned the scale in the drop in the number of tourists cited in the ASSOCHAM report, but he conceded that the incidents had taken their toll.
"There is a decline whenever any such incident takes place. Tourism becomes the first casualty," Gour Kanjilal told AFP.
The ASSPCHAM figures contradict those released by India's tourist ministry, which indicated that the number of tourists to visit India rose by 1.6 percent compared with the same month a year earlier. Figures for the first three months of 2013 were not yet available.
The gang-rape of a 23-year-old university student on a bus in New Delhi in December last year shocked the country and made headlines around the world. The woman, whose companion was also beaten up, died two weeks later of her injuries.
Most recently, a Swiss woman was gang raped in the state of Madhya Pradesh last month, after she and her husband were attacked by a group of men at a campsite. The woman's husband was beaten and tied up and forced to watch as his wife was repeatedly raped.
The trial of six suspects arrested in connection with that case began on Saturday. India's rape laws have been tightened up since the December attack, with a minimum sentence of seven years in jail. The minimum sentence for gang rape is 20 years.
pfd/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)