India’s strained ties with Canada may cost Kerala’s tourism sector dear

Canada figures on the top 10 list of foreign tourist arrivals to the State, as per Tourism dept. figures. Both countries have issued travel advisories urging citizens to be cautious while travelling to select regions in the other country

September 20, 2023 09:01 pm | Updated September 21, 2023 07:47 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Representational image

Representational image | Photo Credit: K. Ragesh

The strained diplomatic ties between India and Canada are a major cause for concern for the hospitality sector in the State, especially ahead of the tourism season. Kerala receives around 25,000 to 30,000 Canadian tourists every year. In the latest development, the Indo-Canadian relationship has hit a new low with both countries issuing travel advisories urging their citizens to ‘exercise utmost caution’ while travelling to some regions in the other country.

For Kerala, Canada is one of the top 10 countries to contribute to foreign tourist arrivals in the State, according to the data available with the Tourism department. “The response from the foreign tourists has been good this year ahead of the tourism season which begins in October-November. Last year, there was massive cancellations after the delay in solving the e-visa issue with the U.K. The issue was sorted out only during the fag end of the season. By that time, the hospitality sector had lost substantial business,” said George Scaria, Managing Director, Keralavoyages India Pvt. Ltd.

Wider ramifications

This year, when the tourism industry in the State is getting ready for a robust season with a substantial increase in the arrival for U.K. nationals, the diplomatic row between India and Canada has come as a dampener. “We hope the issue will be sorted out at the earliest as it has wider ramifications,” added Mr. Scaria. “A soured relationship between the two countries will reflect in the hospitality sector first. But, this is a grave issue and we have to wait till the Indian government mends the relationship,” said E.M. Najeeb, senior vice president, Indian Association of Tour Operators.

The diplomatic ties between the two countries began to sour after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Indian government agents of being involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an ardent supporter of the Khalistan movement. Later, both countries expelled the respective diplomats and issued travel advisories against each other. The Russia-Ukraine conflict also had an impact on the tourism industry here with the number of tourists from European countries dipping.

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