The number of visitors to important monuments in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra has dropped significantly this year due to the closure of tourist attractions for a few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the guides as well as others dependent on the tourism industry faced livelihood problems.
Aurangabad, also known as the ‘Tourism Capital of Maharashtra’ has a number of attractions for visitors including the famous Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Bibi-ka-Maqbara, Fort Daulatabad (Devgiri ) and the Aurangabad cave.
The number of domestic tourists to these five sites, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, fell to 5.94 lakh from March 21 to November 21 of this year, from 19.77 lakh in 2019-2020 ( pre-pandemic period) and 23 lakh in 2018-19, according to ASI data.
Monuments remained closed in 2020-21 following the lockdown induced by COVID-19.
Until November 21 of this year, only 745 foreign tourists visited these five monuments, against more than 40,000 in 2019-2020, according to official figures.
“The pandemic has taught us to restrict the entry of tourists to our monuments. People have learned about ticketing online and many of them now have considered it standard practice,” ASI, Aurangabad, told PTI. Superintendent Milan Kumar Chauley.
Whereas previously the workload of managing tourists took a large part of the workforce, this year ASI has used the workforce for the maintenance of these monuments, a- he declared.
“Previously, we had to deploy manpower to control the crowd, but this year we were able to focus on maintenance and cleaning work as the workforce was not reduced despite the lockdown,” he said. declared the responsible.
But, the guides and others dependent for their survival on the tourism industry have seen difficult times.
Amod Basole, president of the Ellora Guides Wellness Association, said there haven’t been many foreign flights this year and domestic tourism policy continues to change as a result of the pandemic, reducing work assignments for them.
“There are nearly 60 registered guides in our neighborhood, but half of them have left the profession. Even if the activity is now stabilizing, it will take at least three years to recover the total number of guides here” , did he declare.
Another guide, Pankaj Kawde, said that before the pandemic, guides were in high demand at various tourist sites in Aurangabad.
“Now a lot of us don’t have a job. It shows that there is panic among the people. Although the number of visitors to tourist sites has increased somewhat during the current winter season, visitors do not seem eager to hire guides. exhausted and many guides depend on the income of other family members, ”he said.
Some guides tried to venture into the taxi business, but eventually had to sell the vehicles due to lack of funds to pay the monthly vehicle cost installments, Kawde said.
Aurangabad Tourism Development Foundation Chairman Jaswant Singh said their industry faces many obstacles this year.
“Few of the foreign tourists showed up in Aurangabad and connectivity was a problem for them as well. Visitors coming by road were asked to provide RT-PCR reports at the district entry points. inflation and rising fuel prices did not allow us to do that, “he said.
Singh also said tourists prefer to travel to other states in the country where there are fewer restrictions.
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