Category: Taj Mahal.

Taj city struggles to increase tourist flow

By Brij Khandelwal

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Agra, Sep 28 (IANS) Despite housing the Taj Mahal and two other World Heritage monuments, Agra’s tourist flow remains more or less static due to poor infrastructure and an unclean environment, say hotel owners and tour operators.

Even as official bodies organised ritualistic welcome of foreigners at hotels on World Tourism Day Sunday, industry leaders complained of lack of official patronage to develop tourism infrastructure in the city.

“Despite being the number one tourism destination of India, Agra lacks the basic infrastructure to take advantage of the smokeless industry,” said Surendra Sharma, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association.

“In 2007, when the Taj was voted a wonder, we thought the scenario would change and action would be taken on our long list of demands. But we lost an opportunity,” Sharma told IANS.

Industry leaders Rakesh Chauhan and Sandeep Arora said there appeared to be lack of vision to transform Agra into a better tourist haven.

Agra is home to the 17th century Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, as well as the Agra Fort and the ancient Mughal city complex at the nearby Fatehpur Sikri. But despite these attractions, Agra has not been able to significantly increase the number of visitors and increase the night stay of most from a few hours to a few days.

Neither the Uttar Pradesh state nor the central government seem to be interested in promoting Agra, industry leaders say.

“The concerned ministries are sitting on our demand for an international airport in Agra,” said Sharma.

According to latest official figures, of the 5.3 million foreign tourists to India, the Taj attracted only 591,560. This figure has more or less remained static for years, disappointing those in the industry.

Though Agra has more than half a dozen five-star hotels and hundreds of budgeted hotels, the biggest worry is the general sense of insecurity with the law and order situation being poor.

Tourists avoid staying in Agra for the night and are generally in a hurry to get back to Jaipur or New Delhi, only 200 km away.

Another reason is poor community hygiene and the bad state of roads in the city. The authorities have made little efforts to make life comfortable for tourists and keep them busy in the evenings. “Agra looks like a cultural wasteland,” moans handicrafts exporter Abhinav Jain.

Most tourists avoid visiting Fatehpur Sikri or the monuments across the Yamuna river due to poor connectivity and perpetual traffic jams.

The much touted Tourist Police and Special Tourist Police Station have yet to start functioning. The numerous touts at the monuments and railway stations bring bad name to tourism industry in Agra, but officials seem powerless to tackle them.

As for the Yamuna, it is hugely polluted when it enters Agra.

“A city with so much history and sights to see should attract many times more tourists. But there is lack of coordinated approach and the execution of tourism promotion schemes is tardy,” said V.P. Singh, vice president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

K.C. Jain, president of the Real Estate Developers and Colonisers Organisation (REDCO), pointed out the other drawbacks of Agra.

“In Agra, tourism is the baby of numerous government agencies. Why can’t we have one central high-powered authority to coordinate all activities of tourism for such an important destination? That alone can boost tourism in Agra,” Jain told IANS.

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Category: Taj Mahal
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