Last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which left at least 172 people dead and hundreds more injured, have shaken the meetings and tourism industries in the Indian city and the region.
The attacks—which occurred at about 10 locations around Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and The Oberoi-Trident Hotel—could result in the near term loss of 35 percent to 40 percent of group business, according to India Business Today. CPhl India and Pharmaceutical Machinery and Equipment Convention India, which were supposed to be held November 28-30 at the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Mumbai, were postponed until 2009 because of the attacks. The event had been expected to attract some 20,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors from 110 countries. The new dates and venue will be announced as soon as possible, according to the organization’s Web site.
Other Mumbai events reported to be postponed as a result of the attacks include Cityscape India, a real estate conference scheduled for December 8-10 but postponed until December 2009; the India International Wine Fair 2008, scheduled for December 8-13 but postponed until March 2009; and Incisive Media’s AVCJ Private Equity & Venture Forum India conference, planned for the first week in December but postponed until February. In New Delhi, India, the International Herald Tribune has postponed a corporate luxury goods conference at The Imperial hotel because of the attacks. The event would have run December 2-4.
Several large corporations, including Dell, Microsoft, and GlaxoSmithKline, have issued travel warnings or restrictions for employees traveling to the region, according to published reports. Also, the U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert to citizens traveling to India through December 31, 2008. States the travel alert: “While terrorist attacks are not new to India, the November 26 Mumbai terrorist attacks in part targeted American citizens and other westerners for the first time and tragically demonstrate that even in five-star luxury hotels, security is not equipped to deter such attacks.”
The Washington, D.C.–based American Society of Association Executives held a study mission in Mumbai and other parts of India earlier this year for about 50 association executives and meeting planners to check out the area for meetings, partnerships, or expansion.
Officials at the five-star hotels that were attacked—The Oberoi-Trident Hotel and the Taj Mahal—are assessing the damage. No information was available at press time on when the hotels will reopen. Gunmen stormed the Taj Mahal on the night of November 26 and were holed up inside the hotel, engaged in a gunfight with police and security personnel for more than two days.
The attacks are expected to further affect an already struggling tourism market in the region. Through October, hotel occupancy rates in Mumbai were 66 percent for the year, down from 75 percent over the same period in 2007, according to Smith Travel Research. For the month of October alone, occupancy in Mumbai was 59 percent compared to 76 percent in October 2007. In the aftermath of the attacks, experts say the occupancy rate could drop even lower, perhaps to the 50 percent to 60 percent range.
Guests who do stay at area hotels should expect much tighter security, according to an article in The Times of India. The attacks are expected to result in ramped up screening of both guests and staffers.