Right from the Agra Cantt railway station via Sadar Bazar to the Eastern gate of the Taj Mahal, one can see shops, malls, hotels, restaurants and handicrafts emporias all along the way inviting tourists.
The urban clusters coming up on Fatehabad Road and Shamshabad Road, as also the Taj Nagri phase one and two are either directly catering to the tourists or supporting tourism related activities and providing accommodation to those who work in the tourism sector. Colonies like Shaheed Nagar or Vibhav Nagar have a large population working in various hotels or the travel industry.
After the Supreme Court banned polluting industries in 1996, the smokeless industry (Tourism) has been the mainstay of Agra’s economy. The city annually plays host to millions of dollar spending tourists who indirectly fuel the local economy.
Last year more than 25 lakh tourists visited the Taj Mahal.
The growth of the tourism sector has attracted big hotels which have continued to expand anticipating a big rush of tourists in the coming years. Even today half a dozen hotel projects are in the pipeline and construction is going on at least three big sites.
The Fatehabad Road has emerged as the hub of tourism trade with more than 50 big and small hotels and numerous emporias. As Agra’s main tourist complex the Fatehabad Road buzzes with activity round the clock and with the Kalakriti auditorium now showing the musical presentation the Taj Mahal and Shilpgram holding regular programmes in the evenings, the whole six kilometer stretch is now completely transformed. The Pacific Mall, the Adlabs, the TDI Mall and several good restaurants the whole area promises to become a tourist’s delight. The Agra Development Authority has planning to develop a Lovers’ Lane to enable tourists to take a leisurely stroll all the way to the Taj Mahal.
The Agra property scenario is all set to change thanks to the growth of the tourism sector. The city is now opening up to new ideas. Soon enough the number of houses offering paying guest accommodation to the tourists is set to rise. Smaller hotels experimenting with new architectural patterns and attractive designs are getting ready for the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
Tourism industry sources say the city still needs to add to the availability of rooms for the tourists whose numbers will continue to show an upward trend. The older structures and the havelis are being offered incentives at the government level to upgrade amenities and cater to the growing tourism market.
With the city of the Taj Mahal now emerging as a favourite destination for the conference organizers the influx of visitors should show appreciable rise. Every year at least half a dozen international or world congresses are held in the city. “From the organizers point of view the advantage is that the delegates can mix business with pleasure,” says hotelier Surendra Sharma.
“It is because of tourism that the city gets liberal funding for roads, for upkeep of civic amenities, street lighting,” according to president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association Rakesh Chauhan. “The funds collected from toll tax charged from tourists are spent on development of the infrastructure which is also used by the local residents. Tourism therefore supports the growth of the property market,” Chauhan explains.
Without tourism Agra would have been like any other unknown city in India, underdeveloped and begging for facilities. “But tourism potential and sustained growth of this sector has helped the city develop faster and the property market has definitely benefited a lot,” says Sandeep Arora, former president of the Association.
Dr. VP Singh, an educationist says the property market boom in Agra owes its parentage to the tourism sector which provides a lot of impetus and funding. “The city’s changing landscape and skyline is the outcome of the tourism growth,” Singh adds.