The number of tourists has massively declined in parts of India that have seen protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Reuters reported on Sunday.
Tourism officials estimate that about two lakh domestic and international tourists cancelled or postponed their trip to the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh in the past two weeks. “There has been a 60% decline in visitor footfalls in December this year [compared to December 2018],” said Dinesh Kumar, a police inspector overseeing a special tourist police station near the mausoleum.
Kumar said both Indian and foreign tourists have been calling police control rooms in Agra for information about the security situation. Many preferred to stay away despite assurances, Kumar added.
The Taj Mahal attracts around 65 lakh tourists every year, generating revenue of $14 million (Rs 99.99 crore) from entrance fees. However, this December business was disrupted. Suspension of internet services in Agra – in a bid to curb the protests – was also one of the reasons.
“Blocking the internet has affected travel and tourism in Agra by about 50-60%,” said Sandeep Arora, president of the Agra Tourism Development Foundation. Managers in luxury hotels and guest houses around the mausoleum said business, already poor because of the slowdown of India’s economy, was affected more than usual because of last-minute cancellations in December.
Dave Millikin, a retired banker from the outskirts of London, told Reuters that his group, now in Delhi, plans to cut short its 20-day trip to India. “We are all retired folks, for us travel has to be slow and relaxing,” he said. “The newspaper headlines have led to a sense of concern and we will leave sooner than we had planned.”
Assam Tourism Development Corporation head Jayanta Malla Baruah told the news agency that around five lakh tourists visit the state every December. “But this time, due to the ongoing protests and travel advisories by various countries, the number is down by 90% if not more,” he added. Seven countries – the United States, Britain, Russia, Israel, Singapore, Canada and Taiwan – have issued travel advisories to their citizens, asking them to exercise caution while visiting India, especially to areas where demonstrations are taking place.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. At least 26 people have been killed in clashes between the police and the protestors, including 19 in Uttar Pradesh.