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Highway terror fear may hit Taj tourist count

The Taj Mahal and other tourist attractions in Agra may see fewer tourists this year because of a threat perception on the highway connecting the historic city in Uttar Pradesh to New Delhi.

The Taj Mahal is among the most attractive tourist destinations in India, drawing more than 50 per cent of international travellers visiting Uttar Pradesh annually.

Uttar Pradesh hosted around two million foreign tourists in 2013, an increase of over four per cent from 2012. Of that, Agra’s share was 1.2 million. Uttar Pradesh was ranked fourth in the list of states with the highest foreign tourist arrivals in the country, after Maharashtra with about four million foreign tourists, Tamil Nadu with 3.9 million and Delhi (2.3 million).

“This is the peak season and any terror threat can adversely affect tourist inflow. Although it is an ever-present threat, the psychological ripple-down effect of the perception could pose a problem,” said Subhash Goyal, Indian Association of Tour Operators.

However, he added cancellations had not started yet.

India recently allowed e-visa facility for 43 countries, which is expected to promote higher foreign tourist arrivals. During the previous month, a total of 2,968 visas-on-arrival (VoAs) were issued, registering a growth of 62.7 per cent, compared to 1,824 VoAs in November last year.

The fallout of increased security measures, in response to the threat, could also weigh heavily on hotels in the capital.

According to foreign intelligence, at least two hotels in New Delhi are under the threat of a  terrorist attack. The three renowned hotels Business Standard talked to did not wish to comment, stressing they had adequate security arrangements in place and were constantly monitoring the situation.

After receiving intelligence inputs of a looming terrorist threat on two of Delhi’s hotels and a location in the Delhi-Agra highway, the city remained on high alert. A greater presence of police officials and PCR vans was seen manning crowded public areas, shopping malls, metro stations and outside schools.

This follows an hostage situation at a café in Sydney and the attack on a school in Peshawar killing over 100 children.

US President Barack Obama’s visit on Republic Day is also keeping security on alert.

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