New Delhi, Nov. 28 The meltdown-hit travel trade and hospitality industry will have to weather another storm, thanks to the Wednesday’s Mumbai siege by terrorists. But industry watchers and captains predict that it will be a short-term assault on business.
The terror army has scoped out iconic hospitality landmarks like The Taj Mahal Hotel, The Oberoi and The Trident-Oberoi in the country’s financial capital, unlike previous attacks — sparking fears whether tourism and hospitality will have to grapple long–term with the crippling blow.
“The situation is almost like 9/11,” Anil Bhandari, former chairman-cum-managing director of the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), told IANS.
“Obviously, people will not like to travel. But domestic travellers will be around.
“Cancellations of bookings have already started pouring in from foreign countries. The fate of travel trade and hospitality business depends on how we send the message across that everything is normal. Several countries have already issued advisories against travelling to India,” Bhandari said.
India, explained Mumbai-based Sunil Gupta, the chief operating officer of the travel majors SOTC and Kuoni Group, is a complicated destination.
“Tourists book in advance. I think the attack will affect holiday bookings for February and March. People coming to India will avoid Mumbai. The fact that Delhi has the largest inbound airports will help travellers reschedule their itineraries,” Gupta told IANS from Mumbai.
“It is the last straw on the camel’s back,” Gupta said.
Since North America and Europe, the two largest inbound (tourists) contributors to India, are fighting economic pain, bookings have ready borne the brunt. “The attacks have only made it worse,” he said.
However, he said the silver was lining was winter- especially Christmas- is always a subdued season for travel and trade. “People want to celebrate Christmas with their families. That might cushion the impact.”
The SOTC kept in South Mumbai offices closed for the last two days. Bookings will resume Monday. Sources in Cox & Kings said it was a “wait-and-watch situation”. “It is too early to speculate the impact,” a senior Cox & Kings official said.
Owner of restaurant chain Moti Mahal and the author of Moti Mahal cookbook, Manish Gujral, is concerned about the impact of the attack on his hotel trade.
Gujral’s eatery chain has properties spread across the country, including Mumbai.
“The Moti Mahal restaurant in Mumbai is located next to The Oberoi at the Inox mall. It has been closed for the last two days. On the night of the attack, the employees were trapped inside the premises. I am worried about the impact business,” Gujral told IANS.
“Why don’t the judiciary wake up to it? Why are our police not equipped to battle terror?” he hit out. Gujral pointed out that if the country was unable to provide security to its people and ensure a safety along the border, it was not possible for hotels to protect individual customers.
Industry captains, however, feel that the impact of the attack on the travel trade and hospitality business is going to be short term.
There is a very perverse logic to terror, said travel trade and hospitality writer Bhisham Manshukhani, associated with Paprika Media owned by the Essar Group. “People forget and Mumbai has the ability to recover. It can reduce the damage,” Mansukhani said.
According to him, domestic tourist will come back. “But it will take time for foreign travellers to return. Add to it the recession. Hotels are going to see a major crash in the short term,” he said.
By Madhusree Chatterjee
for Indo-Asian News Service (IANS)