Agra (Uttar Pradesh) [India] (ANI): With no mention of any special packages or relief for the tourism industry in Union Budget 2022, the tourist associations and guide associations of Agra feel that they have been left abandoned.
The tourism industry has been hit hard due to COVID-19-induced restrictions for the past two years. Tourism is one of the main sources of income for a large number of people in the city as it is home to three UNESCO recognised heritage sites– Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
“It is surprising that there was not even a single mention about the tourism industry in this year’s budget. Everybody knows what is happening with the people associated with the industry. There is still no reaction from leadership in our state and it is demoralising. People are suffering for the last two years,” said JP Singh, President, UP Pariyatan Guide Association.
For the past two years, associations claimed they are requesting for the government’s help, submitted letters/representations, met ministers but it all went in vain. They are demanding to waive off GST, property tax for a specific period during which tourism industry suffered the most.
In India, there are two categories of government-approved guide i.e. central and state. There are approximately 1100 government recognised guides throughout Uttar Pradesh whereas 381 guides are recognised by the central government. Among them, around 450 guides operate in Agra alone.
The Central government recently announced a policy of giving loans worth Rs 1 lakh to guides.
“There has been no mention of the tourism industry, no mention of packages. Loans can never be a relief because if there is no earning from where we will pay off the loans,” said Vishal Sharma, Secretary, Agra Tourist Welfare Chamber.
“Tourism industry as a whole is barely functioning because tourism has plummeted significantly,” he said.
“Moreover, there are also 4-5 cases where guides after receiving the loan from banks had to give it back for reason till date unknown,” a guide said.
A number of people associated with the tourism industry for their bread and butter have been forced to switch to different professions of which they had no prior knowledge and required skills. (ANI)