Tourism industry representatives want reopening of the Ajanta and Ellora caves, arguing that if the Taj Mahal is reopening for public amid the COVID-19 pandemic, why not the two world famous heritage sites located near here in Maharashtra.
Digital promotion of tourist spots is also needed to resume tourism activities during the pandemic, they said during a panel discussion on ”Aurangabad Tourism: Changed World and Challenges on Sunday.
The Taj Mahal at Agra in Uttar Pradesh is set to reopen on September 21, over six months after it was shut.
However, the Ajanta and Ellora caves, the UNESCO heritage sites located in Aurangabad, and other monuments in Maharashtra are yet to be reopened for visitors.
“When the Archaeological Survey of India”s Agra circle has decided to reopen the Taj Mahal, why Ajanta and Ellora can”t be opened?” Aurangabad Tourism Development Foundation”s (ATDF) civil aviation committee chairman Sunit Kothari asked during the discussion.
He also called for the use of social media and digital platforms to promote tourist spots in Aurangabad. Videos showing safety precautions being taken at tourist spots could also help in drawing visitors here, he said.
“As long as foreign tourists are unable to come to Aurangabad, the tourism industry here should focus on attracting local tourists and visitors from neighbouring districts and states,” Kothari said.
ATDF president Jaswant Singh said Aurangabad”s tourism potential still remains untapped.
“To get more foreign tourists here, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) needs to reach out to different countries. Besides visionary leaders, citizens must also pitch in to promote our tourism assets,” he said.
Aurangabad Hotel and Restaurant Association president Harpreet Singh said government policies were creating hurdles in resumption of the hotel industry amid the pandemic.
Hotels have been opened with limited scope, which is not enough to make the economic cycle run, he said.
“Aurangabad is said to be the state”s tourism capital, so the head office of MTDC should be shifted here. This city should be projected as the gateway of tourism,” he added.
Dr Bina Sengar, assistant professor of history at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University here said focus should also be on cleanliness and maintenance of monuments.
Suggestions made during the discussion would be forwarded to state Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray, the event organisers said.