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Air India will boom Agra tourism

Air India will boom Agra tourism

The tourism industry in the Taj city is upbeat at the prospect of Air India introducing connecting flights to and from Agra, saying it will mean a big boost for tourism.

» Tourism | Monday, May 30, 2011 • Air News Times

An Air India spokesman had two days ago indicated that tier-two and -three cities would now be connected by air with metropolitan cities in the second phase of the national carrier's expansion exercise.


According to tourism and travel circles here, 42 cities with a population of ten lakh and above could be the beneficiaries. These include Agra and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Bhagalpur in Bihar, and Deoghar in Jharkhand.


"We have approached the central government and through political channels we are trying to persuade the civil aviation ministry to expedite the process so that by the time the next tourist season commences, we have air connectivity from all major centres in India," said Rajiv Tiwari, a senior tourism industry leader.


He said the Kheria airport is fully equipped to handle air traffic and capable of handling international flights. "Already chartered flights are coming to Agra regularly," he added.


According to officials, the Agra airport was being modernised and more facilities were being provided under an arrangement with
a Tata group strategic electronic division company. Along with Agra, Bareilly and Gorakhpur airports have also to be upgraded and provided state-of-the-art technology that includes runway lighting system, CAT-2 landing system, distance measurement system, and Doppler very high range frequency navigation system, which will allow aircraft to land in the night as well as bad weather.


With such advanced facilities, connecting Agra with other cities should pose no big challenge, tourism industry stake-holders said.


"The decision to allow direct international flights to Agra and to connect it with Goa and Bangalore was a political one but Agra's graduation to an international-level airport was being thwarted by interest groups, notably the Delhi lobby," said Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association.


The local tourism industry leaders said the entry of Air India would prove to be the biggest boost and tonic for this sector which has seen many ups and downs in recent years.


"Most foreign tourists who come to India have only Taj Mahal in mind. Such visitors will now save a lot of time and money. From Agra they can either return home or go to Jaipur or Kerala. All these years, there was a powerful Delhi lobby of hoteliers and travel agents who managed to scuttle the plan for an international airport. The tourists were made to get off at Delhi and visit Agra as an excursion point. In most cases, the tourists returned the same night. They rarely spent a night in Agra and never saw all the monuments," contended Sandeep Arora, ex-president of the Hotel Association.


The handicrafts emporiums and shopping malls are equally excited as they see immense business possibilities once the tourists start spending their nights in Agra. "Every one stands to gain when the tourists are around with enough time at their disposal, said Abhinav Jain of Cottage Emporium at Taj Mahal's eastern gate.

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