Don’t Shun Mumbai, Plead Tourism Chiefs

MUMBAI, India ~ Mumbai’s hotel managers and tourism chiefs have called for foreigners not to give up on the city after the coordinated strikes that left at least 172 people dead and close to 300 wounded.

With many holiday and business bookings being scrapped, officials urged tourists to support Mumbai in its hour of need.

“If they are thinking of cancelling their stay, we are requesting that they only postpone,” Kiran Kurundkar, the state director of tourism, said.

“If they cancel, everything comes to a halt and the extremists have achieved their aim.

“It’s quite normal for people to feel unsure, but life must go on. So tourism must also move on.”

As India’s most cosmopolitan city, with good domestic and international air links plus a vibrant nightlife, Mumbai – dubbed the “Maximum City” – is a magnet for foreign as well as domestic visitors.

Last year nearly two million international tourists made trips to Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, according to India’s tourism ministry.

“We were totally sold out before the blast,” said Ashwini Joge, manager of the Gordon House Hotel close to the luxury Taj Mahal hotel, which was seized by militants in the attacks that began late Wednesday.

“There was a group that was supposed to come and stay with us but the attacks happened and they cancelled. We only have four guests staying in 28 rooms. All the others have left early,” she said.

“People are cancelling the bookings. They just don’t want to come.”

It was a similar story at the Intercontinental hotel on the seafront, up from the Oberoi/Trident hotel that armed extremists also attacked.

“There has been a lot of cancellations in the last four days. We are assuming that most are due to what’s happened,” said duty manager Roy Fernandes. “About 10 percent have postponed.”

The three restaurants and rooftop cocktail bar at the 58-room boutique hotel are normally packed every evening and weekend but they remain closed.

“We have got the entire hotel barricaded and only cars that we know are allowed to stop. No one can just walk in off the streets,” said Fernandes.

A number of countries arranged for chartered planes to take their nationals home from Mumbai following the attacks. One sent by France arrived in Paris Saturday with 77 people on board.

A spokeswoman for the British Deputy High Commission in Mumbai said they had provided emergency passports for Britons who escaped the carnage without any of their possessions.

India’s tourism ministry sought to reassure foreign visitors, saying in a statement at the weekend: “All regions in India are safe and normal.”

Despite it being peak tourist season due to the cooler weather, both the Gordon House and the Intercontinental said cuts in room rates were likely to try to entice visitors back.

“I think the empty rooms will be a short-term thing,” said Joge. “The business travellers will come back first, and I hope then the holiday people will follow.”

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