Are Russian tourists losing their taste for India? Dwindling numbers suggest so

The trajectory of the number of foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) in India every year generally follows an upward slope. However, the comparison list of top 15 source countries for the years 2014 and 2015, released by the Ministry of Tourism, reveals an interesting change. Russia has dropped from fifth place in 2014 to 12th in 2015. While the United States continues to contribute the maximum to India’s FTA, Bangladesh, UK and Sri Lanka have also retained their respective positions on the list.

Even in the FTA list 2013, Russia stood at number five. Here's a quick look and some of the possible reasons for this drop-off in 2015.

Goa was scrapped off the list of safe travel destinations recommended for Russian tourists, according to a Times of India report in 2015. It was one of the most popular tourist destinations for Russians. However, the number of Russian tourists to Goa has since halved in number. India was not deemed to be a promising destination for Russian travellers, according to Russian News Agency INTERFAX.

The ugly experiences faced by some Russians in recent years has further led to the decline in the number of tourists. For instance, a Russian woman was attacked with acid in Varanasi in November 2015 and suffered over 40 percent burns. Another Russian tourist was beaten up after offending the locals in the village of Mandrem, according to a report by Daily Mail.

The General Elections in India in 2014 and the change of leadership may have also been responsible for Russia’s sudden fall in the list of top 15 countries for FTA in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warm relationship with US president Barack Obama and expanding bilateral ties could be a reason for concern for Russia. Although Modi still decribes Russia as a “strong and reliable friend”, India is leaning more towards the US.

President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 visit to India was curtailed from three days to a single day because of the Ukraine crisis and the imposition of stricter sanctions on Russia. Following this, Putin began looking at India and China to financially help the country. According to an article in The Diplomat, India’s defence ties with Russia were a major pillar of bilateral ties.

However, in recent times, some of these deals have gone to the US, Israel or other countries which has irked Russia and hurt its economy. It lost the Indian helicopter deals and MMRCA fighter jet deals to the US and France respectively. And in what could be seen as a retributive response, Russia turned to Pakistan and signed defence agreements with India's neighbour.

Another possible reason for the depletion in numbers of travelling Russians could also be the fact that the Russian economy is in tatters following the sanctions imposed by the US and EU in the wake of the Ukraine crisis..

There's probably a lot of reasons for this decline in the numbers of Russian tourists to India, however the attacks on Russian tourists, the Russian economy and stagnating India-Russia relations are likely some of the major reasons for this drop in numbers.

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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2016 13:11:47 IST