Ground Report | New Delhi: Tourists at the Taj Mahal; India on Monday reopened its doors to foreign tourists from bilateral countries after a 20-month ban due to Covid. However, tour operators say that due to high ticket prices and remaining restrictions on travelers from the UK, China and other countries, the trend of tourist arrivals is low.
India’s famous tourist destination, the Taj Mahal, desert areas and lion sanctuaries were closed in March 2020 as the epidemic intensified for foreign tourists. But after a catastrophic increase, the government began easing sanctions this year as code 19 infections declined. The tourism sector in India is very important for the economy.
Tourist visas are being issued to tourists in India who want to come on chartered flights from October 15 onwards from countries with which India has a bilateral agreement. It was further relaxed on Monday. But tourists from the UK, EU, China, Brazil, South Africa and other countries will have to take additional measures, including code 19 tests and other measures upon arrival. Five lakh free visas have been issued.
Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, says the number of tourists visiting the country in the next few months will be five per cent higher than before the epidemic. “People are asking us and we are giving them quotations but when they see expensive air tickets they tell us we will try later,” Mehra told AFP. “If global conditions remain stable, we hope to have a full house in October 2022.”
The Taj Mahal is an enduring symbol of eternal love and India’s main tourist attraction, built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to honor the memory of his favorite wife. But it was closed for a long time from March 2020 as continuous waves of Covid infections brought the country’s public health system close to collapse and prompted a drastic lockdown.
Strict hygiene measures are in place at the site, where visitors are strictly instructed not to touch the shiny marble surface of the monument.
Tour guide Nitin Singh said he and his colleagues were impatient to welcome foreign travelers, and told AFP they had barely worked for nearly two years. “All other businesses, all their people have started working, but the hospitality industry is still suffering badly,” he said “I really hope things get better soon.”
After a twenty-month shutdown due to the pandemic, India on Monday reopened its borders to visitors from nearly 100 countries with reciprocal travel arrangements. But tour operators say demand remains sluggish due to higher ticket prices and remaining restrictions on travelers from the UK, China and elsewhere.