Air Pollution and Tourism industry: Ignorance at the cost of Revenue

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Toxic smog and its related health concerns are affecting the decision of foreign visitors to visit India which in turn is affecting the tourism industry at a very dearly cost.

Can a government afford to let loose its revenue generation through the precious industry of tourism which makes a great sharer in the total revenue every year?

India’s tourism industry is facing a crisis as the country’s notorious pollution leads visitors to defer or cancel trips to destinations such as Delhi, Agra and Varanasi, tour operators have warned.

India is the world’s most polluted country, with toxic smog enveloping big cities for months at a time during high season of tourism industry, which runs from around October to March. Operators say concerns about the health effects are increasingly prompting tourists to avoid the region. The consequences of this smog and pollution is in turn affecting India’s tourism industry which is facing a crisis as the country’s notorious pollution leads visitors to defer or cancel trips to destinations such as Delhi, Agra and Varanasi, tour operators have warned.

“It is a problem, it is going to definitely be a bigger problem,” said Dipak Deva, managing director of Thomas Cook-owned Travel Corporation India, the country’s largest tour operator for international visitors. He further adds that it’s a terrible situation and even when people arrive in the country, they are absolutely under shock

 TCI brings about 180,000 people to India each year, some 70,000 of whom pass through Delhi, Mr Deva said. But he warned the company was braced for a decline in the number visiting northern India, where the country’s pollution is worst, in the coming years.

All the 10, world’s most polluted cities are in India. The average annual count of fine particulate matter in Delhi, Agra and Varanasi exceeded the World Health Organisation’s

safe limit by 10 times or more in 2016, according to the most recent data. A study in The Lancet estimated that 1.24m Indians died in 2017 as a result.

air pollution
Picture credit: Google Images

Although the Indian government on January 10th, this year, launched its national clean air programme, designed to bolster collaboration between government agencies and expand the air quality monitoring network. But critics say its target of a 20-30 per cent reduction in the pollution count by 2024 is not ambitious enough.

India under Narendra Modi, the prime minister, has been working to bolster tourism and aims to double the annual number of foreign visitors to India to 20m by 2020. Some 2.5m international visitors came to Delhi in 2016, and government spending on tourism in the city ballooned to $11m last year from $1m two years earlier.

But mounting global concern threatens to derail the plans, industry figures have warned. Countries such as the UK and Australia have issued travel advisories warning their citizens about pollution in Delhi and other cities, and Assocham, an industry trade association, said in a 2017 report that the Indian capital was “bound to drop off from the map of international tourists”. Even the researchers and academia, who are visiting northern part of the country and cities especially Lucknow and Kanpur are avoiding visiting the country until unless it’s not direly important and are abiding by the statement and warnings of their country.

This has been further confirmed by one of a leading research company of India, Morsel Research & Development Pvt. Ltd., based in Delhi, Lucknow and Bangalore, working in the research field from past many years, which carries out surveys and research for various academic personnel,  Professors and various National and International Institutions of diverse fields from various countries like United States of America, Spain, United Kingdom, Latin American countries and even scholars from India who are pursuing their higher studies in International Universities and working in world-known institutions. “Most of our international Professors and collaborators are avoiding visiting the country due to this persisting pollution and hazardous condition. The case of their visiting the country even for the academic purpose has been different in past years” quoted one of the employees of the company.

With the mounting pressure and increasing pollution level even more than neighbouring China, the government must pay heed to the deteriorating condition of air pollution as it’s also a right of citizens to have healthy air to breathe.  Also, the government cannot afford to lose its revenue through the valuable tourism industry. But as the country is approaching towards another General election in coming months, one can least hope from the government to act on this biggest climate challenge issue in the plethora of other trivial political issues.

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