NEW DELHI (AFP) - The number of foreign women tourists visiting India has dropped by 35 per cent in the past three months following a spate of sex attacks that have made global headlines, a new survey has found.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India says overall tourist arrivals are down 25 per cent year-on-year, with holidaymakers opting instead to visit other Asian countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.
The fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old Indian student by six men on a bus in New Delhi in December sparked outrage over the country's treatment of women, and since then there have also been other widely reported attacks.
A Swiss cyclist was gang-raped in Madhya Pradesh last month, while a South Korean tourist was allegedly drugged and raped in the same state in January by the son of the owner of a hotel where she was staying.
These incidents have "raised concerns about the safety of female travellers to the country", said Mr D.S. Rawat, secretary general at the chambers, which surveyed 1,200 tour operators from different cities.
Nearly 72 per cent of tour operators reported a number of cancellations in the last three months - usually a busy tourist season - especially by female visitors from countries such as Canada, the United States and Australia.
Mr Rawat said deteriorating standards of safety and security were the main reasons for the drop in tourists, although the global economic slowdown was also a factor.
"The situation has been further aggravated by the advisory issued by various countries to their citizens visiting India to be cautious and avoid India," added the release from the chambers on Sunday.
The survey comes as a blow to government attempts to boost the tourism industry in a period of lagging economic growth.