Agra: A new tourist season beginning on World Tourism Day on Thursday has brought little cheer to the tourism sector in the Taj city.
Tourism industry leaders say there was nothing much to look forward to as a number of their demands that could spurt growth had been rejected or put in cold storage. The travel trade laments the lack of air connectivity to Agra.
"Smaller cities have regular flights but not India's tourist destination number one," says Anil Sharma, spearheading a movement for an international airport at Agra for the past three years.
The hotel industry says it has been affected by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the falling graph of visitors staying overnight in Agra. The Supreme Court is seized of crucial issues like declaring Agra a heritage city and imposing restrictions on industrial development.
"This has created uncertainty as hotels can neither expand nor open new units in the city because of the ad hoc moratorium on industries," says Agra Development Foundation Secretary K.C. Jain. Tourism organisations in Agra on Thursday organised the ritual welcome of tourists at railway station and at different hotels. But there was little else to commemorate the day.
Agra is one of India's top tourist destinations. Yet, it lacks basic infrastructure and thus cannot take advantage of the interest generated in India and its tourist attractions, Sharma added.
Leaders in the tourism and hospitality industry complain that there was a lack of vision and of will in the political leadership of Uttar Pradesh.
"Even with three world heritage monuments, Agra has not been able to significantly increase the number of visitors. And those who visit often make brief trips. The Yamuna Expressway has made it easier for tourists to return the same day to Delhi," Rakesh Chauhan, President of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, told IANS. "We need a comprehensive action plan for tourism development for the whole Braj region that includes Mathura, Vrindavan, Bateshwar and several important sites of religious importance," adds Sandeep Arora, a hotelier of Taj Ganj. --IANS