The recent decision by the Union government to suspend visas for Canadian citizens, who represent a significant source market for India, is causing concern within the tourism industry. In-bound travel operators are bracing themselves for a potential wave of cancellations, and there are fears that this could have a broader impact on overall sentiment in the industry.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism, December is considered the peak tourist season in India, while the summer months see relatively lower tourism activity. In 2021, data from the ministry indicated that more than 24 percent of Canadian tourists who visited India did so in December, compared to less than one percent in May.

Rajiv Mehra, the president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), emphasized the importance of Canada as a major source market for India. He noted that many tourists and people of Indian origin travel to India during this time to visit friends and relatives. This year was expected to return to a sense of normalcy after the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the current situation has thrown a wrench into those plans. The strained diplomatic relations between Canada and India, exacerbated by incidents like the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments linking India to the murder, have led to India’s suspension of visa services for Canadians.

IATO predicts a substantial decline of 30-40 percent in tourism compared to their earlier expectations for the current financial year. Mehra pointed out that those who had intended to travel to India from December onwards are likely to be adversely affected. Furthermore, various segments within the hospitality industry, including hotels, event planners, marriage planners (as many Canadians of Indian origin have weddings in India and spend generously), and luxury car rental companies, are also expected to experience a downturn in business.

Ajay Prakash, a Board Member of the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), expressed concerns about the timing of the standoff with Canada, which coincides with the start of the inbound tourism season. While specific figures on the impact are not available yet, there is a general consensus that if this situation persists, it will have adverse effects across all segments of the tourism industry. Industry leaders are hoping that the sentiment in other crucial markets remains unaffected, as a ripple effect in those areas could potentially have disastrous consequences for the industry as a whole.

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