NEW DELHI: Terror attacks in India will not deter tourists from visiting the country as it has emerged as a major global tourist destination, Peter de Jong, president and CEO of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said on Thursday.
PATA is the biggest coalition of travel and tourism companies in Asia-Pacific.
India has witnessed a string of terror attacks on trains and public places in the recent past.
The latest attack on Sunday was on a train — the Samjhauta Express, which connects the Indian capital New Delhi to the Pakistani city of Lahore — which killed 68 people.
“I don’t — as a consumer, let’s say — don’t associate India at all with that kind of a threat,” Jong told Reuters on the sidelines of the launch of a tourism report on India.
“I think India is seen in a very positive light and particularly in a culturally diverse light”.
Despite lingering terror threats, particularly in key tourist destinations, visitors to India have increased.
About 4.4 million tourists visited India last year, which is around 13% more than in 2005, government data showed.
Foreign exchange earnings from tourism rose 23.2% on year to $822.5 million (Rs3,623 crore) in December and analysts say there is tremendous potential for growth.
Jong said India had the potential of being a leader in tourism if it urgently tackled problems in infrastructure, aviation and hygiene where it is lagging behind other Asian destinations.
“Between the growth potential and the growth realised, there is a margin that could be narrowed if initiatives were taken by the government and the industry together ... to bridge the gap,” he said.
Best known on the world tourist map as home to the Taj Mahal, India has been running a campaign to woo tourists to its grand palaces, golden beaches, ancient temples and wildlife sanctuaries.