New Delhi: Conceding the effect of coronavirus on the Indian tourism industry, the Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel claimed that the loss to industry stakeholders was evident but stressed that safety is of utmost importance.
"Travel agencies, hotels, and others related to tourism industry will have to face economic loss and it is evident that coronavirus will affect tourism in the near future too, but the government is standing by them," Patel told IANS in an exclusive interview.
He added that restricting tourists influx in the country amid coronavirus outbreak was a tough measure but a correct one.
"Safety is the priority, business comes second. So, I feel that the decision to put in restrictions on travellers is correct," Patel said.
He said the evacuation of Indian students from China, Italy, Iran, combined with the safety first attitude of Indian government will help the country in gaining goodwill in the world.
"We want to ensure safety even after the pandemic is over and before removing restrictions from tourism. Despite a big challenge, I firmly believe that we will be one of the strongest nations who can guarantee security to the tourists," Patel said.
Agra, which has reported the maximum number of eight coronavirus patients in the past two weeks, is one of the worst-hit cities in Uttar Pradesh.
More than 50 per cent drop in tourism has been recorded in Agra in recent weeks.
According to reports, there was a drastic drop in the sale of tickets to the Taj Mahal on Sunday.
Data provided by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) shows that the number of foreign tourists fell down to a mere 1,274 on Sunday. In comparison, on any normal day, there are more than 20,000 to 25,000 visitors at the Taj Mahal.
Meanwhile on Monday, the authorities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands suspended all tourism activities in the Union Territory from March 16 till March 26 in the wake of coronavirus scare.