Washington, Jan 11: How much travel advisories issued by the United States (US) affect the flow of American tourists to India? Experts say, not much.
According to data, over 1.3 million Americans visited India in 2016. The flow of tourists from the US grew 27 per cent over the last four years in 2016. America accounts for around 15 per cent of India's foreign tourist arrivals and is now the second largest source market for Indian tourism, stated a report by Business Standard.
Once again, the US has issued a new travel advisory for countries including India on Wednesday.
According to American officials, the travel advisory is "user-friendly" as it is based on the ready-to-understand level of advice ranging from one to four.
India has been ranked Level 2 (exercise increased caution) while Pakistan has been placed in Level 3 (reconsider travel). Level 1 advises travellers to exercise normal precaution, while Level 4, which has countries like Afghanistan, recommends "Do Not Travel".
Now every country has a travel advisory based on this system, which has replaced all the previous such advisories. "These improvements will provide US citizens with clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information worldwide," the State Department said.
Placing India on Level 2, the State Department identified "crime and terrorism" for Americans to exercise increased caution. However, it asks Americans not to travel to Jammu and Kashmir, except for eastern Ladakh and Leh and not to venture within 10 miles of the India-Pakistan border due to the "potential for armed conflict".
The State Department explained that while it will issue an overall travel advisory level for every country, levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country.
"Indian authorities report rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations," the new India travel advisory said.
Terrorists or armed groups are active in east-central India, primarily in rural areas, it added.
"Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities," it said.
Ranking Pakistan on Level 3, the State Department asked Americans to reconsider travel to this country due to terrorism.
It advises Americans not to travel to travel to Balochistan province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) due to terrorism.
Americans are also advised not to travel to Pak-Occupied Kashmir due to terrorism and the potential for armed conflict.
"Over the past six months, there have been at least 40 significant terrorist attacks across Pakistan, resulting in over 225 deaths and 475 wounded, most of which occurred in Balochistan, KPK, and the FATA. In the past, there have been large-scale terrorist attacks resulting in hundreds of casualties," it said.
If one goes through the travel advisory issued by the US for its citizens, India has nothing much to cheer. From rape to terror attacks, India is vulnerable to some of the worst crimes in the world.
"Every country has its own problems. India too has its specific issues. It does not mean that India is an unfriendly country for tourists. We have witnessed some horrific incidents against tourists in the country. In spite of all these problems, India is a favourite tourist destination," said a Delhi-based tour operator.
According to the tour operator, most Americans love to travel to Agra, Jaipur, Kolkata and parts of Kerala whenever they visit India.