Tourists avoid Taj Ma­hal

TRAVEL WARN­ING: WAVE OF DEADLY ANTI-GOV­ERN­MENT PROTESTS ROCK IN­DIA’S CITIES

The Citizen (KZN) - - World - Mumbai

Can­cel­la­tions dur­ing fes­tive sea­son have damp­ened busi­ness sen­ti­ment.

In­dia’s tourism in­dus­try has been hit by a wave of vi­o­lent anti-gov­ern­ment protests against a new cit­i­zen­ship law that have rocked sev­eral cities this month, with at least seven coun­tries is­su­ing travel warn­ings.

At least 25 peo­ple have been killed in clashes be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers, and demon­stra­tions against the law con­tinue.

Of­fi­cials es­ti­mate 200 000 do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional tourists can­celled or post­poned their trip to the Taj Ma­hal in the past two weeks, one of the world’s most pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tions.

“There has been a 60% de­cline in vis­i­tor foot­falls in December this year,” said Di­nesh Ku­mar, a po­lice in­spec­tor over­see­ing a spe­cial tourist po­lice sta­tion near the Taj Ma­hal.

“In­dian and for­eign tourists

The Taj Ma­hal, sit­u­ated in the town of Agra, at­tracts over 6.5 mil­lion tourists ev­ery year, gen­er­at­ing nearly $14 mil­lion (about R196 mil­lion) an­nu­ally from en­trance fees. A for­eign tourist pays 1 100 ru­pees (about R210) to en­ter the grounds, although na­tion­als from neigh­bour­ing coun­tries get a dis­count.

Man­agers in lux­ury ho­tels and guest houses around the Taj Ma­hal said last minute can­cel­la­tions dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son have damp­ened busi­ness sen­ti­ment at a time when the coun­try’s eco­nomic growth has slowed to 4.5%.

In a bid to clamp down on vi­o­lence and un­rest, au­thor­i­ties have sus­pended mo­bile in­ter­net ser­vices in Agra.

“Block­ing the in­ter­net has af­fected travel and tourism in Agra by about 50-60%,” said San­deep Arora, pres­i­dent of the Agra Tourism De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion that groups over 250 tour op­er­a­tors, ho­tels and guides.

The US, Bri­tain, Rus­sia, Is­rael, Sin­ga­pore, Canada and Tai­wan have is­sued travel ad­vi­sories ask­ing their cit­i­zens to ei­ther re­frain from vis­it­ing or to ex­er­cise cau­tion when vis­it­ing re­gions em­broiled in In­dia’s protests.

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