July was a good month for tourism in India. August wasn’t

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
image of Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal. What should the dress code be? Image © Frederic de Poligny

In July alone it received over 736,000 overseas visitors compared with about 628,000 in July 2015. For the first seven months of the year the number was 4.9 million compared to 4.47 million the year showing that, despite the year going well, July was an exceptionally good month for the country.  Of those visitors some 11% were made up of Britons and western nationals provided 40% of the total figure.

If July was good what happened in August?

This was the month that the tourism minister, Mahesh Sharma, suggested that foreign women visitors shouldn’t wear skirts, they shouldn’t go out at night, and they should photograph the car in which they travel for protection if something happens.

A torrent of criticism came from tourist authorities and others. Some suggested he was suggesting dress codes for female tourists. Some suggested he was suggesting that it wasn’t safe for women to go out at night.

Sanjay Singh, in a no-holds-barred story in Firstpost, headlined his story as “With ministers like these, PM Modi doesn’t need enemies” and called Sharma “a permanent embarrassment.” Singh writes, “What he didn’t say but implicitly meant was that you could be raped and murdered if you don’t cover yourself well and haven’t taken care of moving around with male companions.” Singh received 169 comments on his story, the majority of which were anti-Sharma. In the words of someone writing as Rationalist/Rebel, “The Minister is not promoting tourism as he should be doing instilling a sense of confidence in the foreigners psyche about their security in an alien Country. He is in fact discouraging tourism…”

A long term resident of India, but a westerner, wrote her thoughts in Scroll.in and Sharma came in for more criticism.

A day after he made this statement he claimed that he was just referring to religious places and said that, as a father of two daughters, he would never tell women what to wear. He might hope that the story would disappear but it wasn’t helped when, yesterday, he is reported in The Indian Express as saying that “the perception about the country as a tourist destination has improved to a great extent.” A week might be a long time in politics but people remember that Sharma hasn’t helped promote Indian tourism by his ill-judged comments.

 

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