Terrorism and its impact on tourism in India

India is a diverse country and a popular tourist destination, one that has been vulnerable to terrorist activities for a long time. Not only has terrorism claimed the lives of many people but it has also hampered the smooth functioning of the country’s economy. This article studies the direct negative relationship between tourism and terrorism.

Terrorism in India

Terrorist activities have taken place in almost all states of India. “The Annex of Statistical Information, Country Reports on Terrorism 2017places India as the country with the third-highest instances of terrorist activities. As a grave matter of fact,  59% of all worldwide attacks took place in five countries (Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines). 

Table 1 

The report further goes on to state that “The number of terrorist attacks declined eight percent in India; however, the total number of people killed in terrorist attacks increased 10 percent in 2017. While making a cross-sectional analysis, it concludes by stating that “More than half of the terrorist attacks in India in 2017 took place in three states: Jammu and Kashmir (25%), Chhattisgarh (15%), and West Bengal (10%).”

Jammu and Kashmir is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in India and it attracts a huge number of tourists from all around the globe. However, due to the shocking number of terrorist activities, tourism in this region has suffered the most.  

Tourism in India:

Tourism is one of the most flourishing industries in India. Being a land of cultures and traditions, India offers thousands of tourist destinations for relaxation, adventures, outings, and spiritual visits. India holds a lot of potential as a beautiful nation to attract a lot more foreign tourists and generate greater GDP through the improvement of this industry.  

However, despite all these factors, India enjoys an insignificant proportion of tourist inflow as compared to the rest of the world. According to the International Tourism Receipts (US $ terms), India’s share in tourism accounts for a meager 6.78% of the total amount.  In relative terms, with the vast diversities of the landscape that the subcontinent offers, the receipts from tourism should have been a lot higher. This points towards some underlying negative externalities which have affected tourism to this day.

Chart 1 

It is important to note that Jammu and Kashmir is not among the most visited places by tourists in India. However, Jammu and Kashmir is referred to as the ‘Heaven on earth’. Now when a place with such a status does not enjoy high tourist inflow, it points out the severe political instability of the place.

1. The 26/11 Mumbai Attacks and its aftermaths on tourism

The widely infamous 26/11 Mumbai Attacks were a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks carried out by 10 members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which lasted for 4 days (26th-29th November 2009). The attacks took place mostly in South Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra. Aimed mostly at foreign tourists, the attacks took place at popular hotels, cafés, and a hospital. It is reported that 166 people were killed and over 300 were wounded in this attack. 

While there were a lot more casualties suffered by Indians, quite a few foreign tourists were also affected by the attacks. While foreigners suffered fewer deaths and injuries than Indians, the incident weakened the Indian tourist industry in one big blow.  

After the attacks took place, there were severe restrictions on tourism in the region. For example, the famous Elephanta festival was stopped for 9 years due to security concerns

Due to the lack of data on tourism before that period, it is difficult to establish the negative impacts of terrorism. However, a report prepared by Hotelivate Research offers some insight. Indeed, the methodology used for their research is quite interesting. The report presents international and domestic tourist variations with equal weights given to both: the higher the levels of tourism, the lower the rank, the higher is the point obtained. In other words, if tourism levels are high, a subsequent high score is attached to the respective place. Finally, after scores are assigned, a ranking is prepared. To keep things simple and logical, a range of ranks are  considered as follows:

Table 2 

Table 3

Source: Hotelivate Research. With regard to the 2008 Mumbai (Maharashtra) attacks, the state of Maharashtra has been highlighted in order to establish a negative correlation with the attack. 

As can be seen from the table above, the states are ranked on the basis of the tourist inflow. Now we can study the ranks of the states across a time series. The variance column helps us to identify the change in the ranks of the state in that year as compared to 2016. In other words, it points out if ranks have increased or decreased in relation to 2016. 

Table 4

The data throws light on the fact that the rank of Maharashtra was significantly lower in 2011 signifying that tourism had not yet stabilised after the attacks that occurred in 2008. However, after that period, tourism kept improving as there were no major terrorist attacks that hampered tourism in the region. 

2. The Amarnath Yatra attacks & Insurgencies in J&K

The Amarnath cave is a Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir which attracts hundreds of devotees each year.  This place has been a target of notorious terrorist activities in the past. The pilgrimage was banned from 1991 to 1995 due to threats from terrorists. This was followed by the ‘2000 pilgrimage massacre‘ which claimed the lives of 32 people who were on their way to Amarnath. Then there took place the 2001 and 2002 terrorist-attack massacres and a further attempt in 2006 during which, fortunately, there were no casualties. It seemed as if the attacks had stopped for quite some time until the 2017 attacks hit again. 

We can analyze the trend of tourist inflow to Amarnath caves and try to relate it to the attacks. 

Chart 2 

Source: Analysis of data by the author

Directly from the data, it can be interpreted that tourist inflow has been quite irregular and has quite a lot of peaks and troughs. Stagnation in tourist visits was observed from 2001-2003. Also, there has been a considerable dip noted from 2006 until 2008. Although beyond that, there was an absolute increase in the number of tourists, spikes were sharp and noteworthy. As can be easily linked, all the downfalls in tourist visits followed shortly after terrorist attacks and political unrest. 

Now we take a look at a broader picture – the Jammu and Kashmir state as a whole. We shall focus on establishing a relationship between tourism and terrorist activities: 

Table 5

We derive the regression equation as:  

Tourism = 57465. 24 − (17. 57) ∗ terrorist fatalities

The Correlation coefficient is -0.944720163, implying a very strong negative correlation between the variables, which means that tourism in Jammu and Kashmir increases with a decrease in terrorism activities. 

Conclusion: This empirical study shows that there is a direct negative relationship between tourism and terrorism. As can be concluded from both case studies, the otherwise beautiful places which could be tourist paradises have suffered due to insurgencies. With strict security, Mumbai has regained its place as an important Indian tourist destination. Yet the continued political turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir continues to curb down the state’s potential in attracting tourists. With this proven, it is really high time that India should focus on stabilizing political instabilities if it aims to generate more revenue from the flourishing tourist industry. 

Saptorshi Gupta 

Saptorshi is a M.Sc. student in Biostatistics & Demography from the International Institute for Population Sciences. His research interests lie in development economics, population studies and public health.

The featured image (top) is from Unsplash.


Ministry of Tourism. (2018). India Tourism Statistics At A Glance -2018. Retrieved from  http://tourism.gov.in/market-research-and-statistics 

Sethi, A. S., (2017). A Year After ‘Surgical Strikes’, Terrorist Attacks, Infiltration in J&K  Continue Unabated. Retrieved from The Wire website: https://thewire.in/author/assethi 

Ministry of Tourism (Market Research Division). (2010) Tourism Survey for State of  Maharashtra. Retrieved from the Ministry of Tourism website:http://tourism.gov.in/market research-and-statistics 

Malik, M.M., & Asima, N. (May 2014). A REVIEW OF TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA.  Mysore.  

Aasif, H. N., Ghulam, M. B., Audil R. K. (2016), Economic Impact of Tourism in Jammu  and Kashmir; Indian Journal of Economics & Development Volume 4, Issue 3

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