The chikungunya and dengue outbreak in the national capital has begun to impact travel and tourism sector ahead of the holiday season, with industry experts cautioning that if the health threat is not contained timely then it could result in losses to the economy. Facing the twin viral onslaught, many Delhi residents are advising their friends and families in India and abroad to cancel or postpone visits to the city, which is seeing an upsurge of chikungunya after a gap of nearly 10 years.
“Our relatives from the US usually plan a trip to India around this time and they had even booked their tickets. But we asked them to postpone their trip because of the current situation in Delhi,” said Rahul Desai, a corporate professional. October-December is one of the peak travel seasons as festivals like Dussehra, Diwali and Christmas fall during it. This quarter, besides, April-June, is also seen as a major revenue-earning period for the travel sector.
Dengue and chikungunya have claimed at least 35 lives and over 2,800 people are down with mosquito-borne fever in the national capital. “My friend from Mumbai was planning to visit Delhi with his family during this time. But I asked him to cancel his trip as Delhi is currently reeling under the impact of dengue and chikungunya,” said Vijay Singh, a senior police officer. The national capital registers “about 35 per cent” of India’s total foreign tourist influx as it is used as a transit point during their travel. “Delhi being hit the worst, the number of tourists visiting Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and other locations in the western state is coming down drastically with the state government itself cautioning tourists against the disease,” according to an assessment by ASSOCHAM.
The umbrella industry body has cautioned that the health crisis must be dealt with on a “war-footing” by the Centre and the state governments as the disease taking “epidemic proportion” is expected to result in a “loss to the tourism and aviation industries”. “With increasing cases of chikungunya and dengue and the kind of negative reaction on the tourists, the traffic is set to drop drastically, leaving a bruising impact on businesses such as hotels, airlines, taxi operators and restaurants. “Many tour operators are now gearing up with precautionary steps for foreigners arriving in Delhi during the peak tourist season set to begin from October,” says D S Rawat, Secretary General of ASSOCHAM.
“Children are falling sick so families are not travelling. One can perceive the visible fall in footfall. So, it has affected our business,” a Delhi-based tour operator said.