Agra tourist sector upbeat as number of vistors to Taj Mahal surge

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Meanwhile, tourism received a major boost when flights were started from Agra to Lucknow on October 1…reports Brij Khandelwal

As the number of visitors to the 17th century monument of love Taj Mahal increased slowly from a trickle to more than 30,000 on Sunday, there were discernible signs of relief and hope in Agra’s tourism sector which had seen an unprecedented lean phase due to the Covid-19 pandemic for nearly two years.

Agra has already been declared Covid-free as there are zero cases reported in the past two weeks and all active cases have been discharged. The only element of worry now is an alarming rise in dengue cases which has taken a heavy toll in Agra, Mathura and Firozabad districts.

Children have been the worst-hit by dengue but Health Department officials said the overall situation was under control. The Agra administration has taken a series of measures to provide prompt medical care in rural areas.

Meanwhile, tourism received a major boost when flights were started from Agra to Lucknow on October 1.

Flights are now available for Bengaluru, Nagpur, and Ahmedabad, and those from Bhopal and Mumbai will soon begin, officials said.

The construction of a new terminal and an independent road access outside the Air Force area continues at a brisk pace. Former state Aridaman Singh and local MP and Union Minister S.P. Singh Baghel have urged Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia to connect Agra with several other cities.

The tourism industry in Agra is hoping for return of “business as good as before” once international flights resume operations. Right now, the number of tourists from abroad is negligible, said tourist guide Ved Gautam.

“But before international tourists start arriving, the UP Police has to streamline its functioning outside the Taj Mahal, particularly at the ticket counters. Every now and then, there is a scuffle or heated argument over machines or scanners not working or identification problems. Tickets are currently available online only,” Gautam added.

The main cause of worry in the tourism trade remains the traffic jams in the city. Tourist vehicles get stranded for hours on the Yamuna Kinara Road and near Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra.

Senior police officials, after holding meetings with the administration, have assured action to address traffic issues. Due to laying of the Ganga water pipeline on the banks of Yamuna and construction work for the Metro services on the Fatehabad Road, long stretches have been dug up which has affected traffic movement.

However, Agra Mayor Navin Jain has promised to fill up all potholes on the roads and widen some stretches to ease traffic congestion. With the festival season around the corner, local hotels and ‘petha’ as well as handicraft industries are quite optimistic.

“These two years have been disastrous for business, we are now hoping for a turnaround. With elections in Uttar Pradesh early next year, there should be plenty of money in circulation along with business swing,” said Rajiv Gupta, a businessman and former President of the National Chamber of Industries and Commerce.

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