Agra, March 7 (IANS) In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Naveen Jain, mayor of Agra city that annually gets over seven million tourists, has asked the Centre to close the iconic Taj Mahal for the time being.
The tourism industry is not happy with Jain’s suggestion.
In a letter to the Union Tourism Minister, Jain said: “If the monuments remained closed, the inflow of tourists to Agra could be checked to prevent people here from falling victim to the virus. From October to March end is the tourist season when lakhs of tourists visit the city.
The mayor has also cancelled all ‘Holi milan’ programmes in the city and appealed to the people to avoid visiting crowded places.
Navin Jain said the monuments should remain closed till the situation came under control. Agra is visited daily by a large number of tourists from all over, he added.
“The people here were scared of all the foreigners and looked at them with suspicion. This situation could turn nasty and tarnish India’s image internationally,” he said.
The visit of the 14 Italian tourists, who later tested positive to the virus, to the city has raised concerns of the administration, and the hotel management was passing the buck to the administration.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Mukesh Vats, however, said the central protocol and guidelines will be strictly followed.
So far, 127 samples have been sent to Lucknow for testing, five were found positive. Testing of remaining samples is continuing, officials said.
The Tourism industry leaders here, however, are not happy with the Mayor’s demand to close the Taj and other monuments till March end.
Several hoteliers said this would send a wrong message and adversely affect tourism industry in the long run.
The hospitality industry has already taken a dent this season with an all time decline in the number of visitors to Agra in February. The annual 10-day cultural extravaganza, the Taj Mahotsava proved to be a flop, with hardly any visitors to the fair at the Shilpgram, 500 metres from the Taj Mahal.
The city is already in high alert mode. Health Department officials have screened more than 55,000 people in 18 areas. Fogging and cleaning campaigns are being run in congested localities.
The hotel floors were being washed twice a day and close watch was being kept on all the tourists.
Groups of doctors have held meetings in colonies to sensitise the people against the coronavirus. There were some prayers and havan held on the banks of Yamuna.