New Delhi: On 8th November 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. Within hours of that announcement, diplomatic missions in Delhi started sending detailed advisories to their citizens about currency restrictions in India and what their citizens can do on arrival.
The UK embassy, which has been regularly updating its advisory, says citizens should be prepared for long queues at banks and the ATM withdrawal limit is Rs 2500. The advisory also says that tourists shouldn’t accept any denomination higher than Rs 100 if they are exchanging currency and use debit/credit cards as much as possible.
This is peak tourist season and those in the tourism industry say, "The government’s demonetization announcement and warnings by embassies on their websites are going to impact booking for the next 3-4 months."
Ashwani Kakkar, Executive Vice-Chairman of Mercury Travels told CNN-News18, “Prior to the government’s demonetization announcement the tourism industry was witnessing an upward trend, but in the last seven days, there has been a dip in future bookings”.
Kakkar's worry is that countries such as the UK, US and France will not remove advisories for the next two-three months and this could discourage people from coming to India. He says many tourists are being turned away from monuments as foreign exchange isn’t being accepted or they don’t have enough of local currency.
CNN-News18 contacted a number of diplomatic missions in Delhi. While they refused to comment on the government's big move to fight black money, they did confirm that they were getting a lot of calls from hassled tourists. One embassy got a number of calls over the weekend from its citizens travelling in Rajasthan, while another got reports of citizens finding it hard to get taxis at the airport because of lack of change.
Diplomats too had their fair share of trouble. Many diplomatic missions have ATMs within their premises but sources say that since the 8th of November, there are either long lines or the machines have no money. One official said embassy ATMs run out of cash within a few hours. A diplomat told CNN-News18 that he had to wait for 3 hours in a queue to withdraw cash.
Sources in the government feel that high-end tourism which functions mostly through credit cards is unlikely to suffer, but they do concede that backpackers, budget travelers, and those visiting remote locations could face trouble.