Taj Mahal missing from tourist map will cause 25% drop in tourists, caution experts
The Taj attracts around 8 million travelers a year and the government has a target of it cross 10 million by Year 2022
Taj Mahal, which has serenaded love and passion in stone has had paeans written about it in poems, songs and novels. India’s Nobel laureaute in literature, Rabindranath Tagore explained it exquisitely: “The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.”
The Taj has been India’s perennial cash cow for tourism. Almost 70 percent of visitors to India and domestic tourists have the monument on their must-see list. In fact, say tour operators, visitors choosing the most popular Golden Triangle, the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur route, often skip Jaipur but rarely has there been any one who wanted to skip Agra and consequently the Taj Mahal.
“We have had foreign tourists who have booked the Golden Triangle and then skipped Jaipur and its palaces and forts and extended their time at Agra to see the Taj Mahal,” said Dipak Deva, Managing Director, TCI SITA, Thomas Cook India Group.
What is the tourist inflow to Agra and consequently the Taj like? Here are the figures. There was a 4 percent drop in visitors to the Taj Mahal in 2016, owing to renovation to the famed monument – its dome and minarets. In 2016, the number of tourists visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal dropped to 62.42 lakh from 65.14 lakh in 2015.
Take away the Taj Mahal from India's tourism map and tourist inflow and revenues will drop by 25 percent says Deva of Thomas Cook India.
The current controversy surrounding the famed monument of love has not impacted tourism as such. Subhash Goyal, president, confederation of Indian Tour Professionals says that they are expecting a 15 to 20 percent rise in tours to the Taj Mahal in the current year.
The Taj Mahal, say tour operators, is probably the only monument in the world built for the love of a woman. It has remained a perennial favourite of visitors from all strata of the society. The entry to the Taj Mahal costs Rs 40 for Indian tourists, Rs 530 for those from SAARC countries and Rs 1,000 for foreign tourists. For those who are on a budget travel, all it takes is a bus or train ride to Agra from Delhi. You can see the Taj Mahal and return to Delhi the same day, too.
“It never ceases to attract people. Even those on a business trip to Delhi extend or take off in the night or extend their travel by a day to visit the Taj Mahal,” says Sharat Dhall, COO ( B2C), Yatra.com. Yatra’s most popular travel package is a 4-day tour to the Golden Triangle.
The Taj Mahal attracts around 8 million travelers a year and the government has a target of it crossing over 10 million by year 2022. Most tour operators are of the view it would reach the target even earlier, by 2020.
No one visits the Taj Mahal viewing it as a mausoleum, says a tour company official. On the contrary, it is seen only as an architectural marvel. “You could visit it at night, see it in the daylight, dusk or up from the skies while on a plane and every view seems different,” says a chief operating officer of a tour company, who spoke on conditions of anonymity. Besides, it is a monument of love, he said. “Love has no barriers of colour, caste and creed or even nationality,” he said.
The Taj Mahal is a must-do for inbound visitors. It is clearly synonymous with India in that sense, says Dhall. “Anyone travelling to India makes visiting the Taj Mahal a must-have item on their itinerary, especially if they are travelling to the north of India. Irrespective of heads of state, royalty or even ordinary men and women, the Taj Mahal is on the bucket list of many across the country and the world. Though for domestic tourists, Goa is the top leisure destination, the Taj Mahal unfailingly is on the top of every inbound tourist's list,” says Dhall, adding that there has been a 25-30 percent rise in tourists headed to Taj Mahal with Yatra.com
The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO heritage site. India has as many as 35 heritage sites. “It is a problem of plenty,” says a tour operator, adding that “our issue is we refuse to respect history and its contribution to India. The Taj Mahal is a revenue earner for tourism,” he adds.
Besides the monument being a poem in love on stone, it is easily accessible thus making it very popular with the young and the old alike. “The monument is easily accessible and facilities are in place for smooth tourist movement and this also acts as a catalyst for more visitors to flock to the destination,” said Karan Anand, head—relationships, Cox & Kings.
The world is divided into those who have seen the Taj Mahal and those who haven’t, says Goyal.
Perhaps, the language of love will see it through ages like it has ever since it has been visited by tourists in the late 17 th century.
(Data support by Kishor Kadam)
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