Another wonder revealed: Qutub Minar draws most tourists, Taj a distant second

AMITABH SINHA

New Delhi, JULY 24

TAJ MAHAL may have been included in a list of seven wonders of the world in a recent global poll but when it comes to attracting tourists, it is a distant second to the Qutub Minar in Delhi.

The marble mausoleum is slightly higher up on the itinerary of foreign tourists, but even among them, only a seventh take the trouble of visiting Agra.

According to official figures, Taj Mahal received about 25.4 lakh visitors last year, both domestic and foreign. In comparison, Qutub Minar attracted 38.95 lakh visitors, or more than one-and-a-half times that of the Taj, to be the most visited monument in the country.

The Red Fort in Delhi, recently included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO, was third most popular with 21.01 lakh visitors in 2006, followed by Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.

Taj Mahal was recently voted as one of the seven wonders of the world in a global Internet and SMS poll conducted by a private organisation based in Zurich, Switzerland. But for all the passion the Taj generates and despite being promoted as the flagship destination in campaigns like the Tourism Ministry's Incredible India, the 17th century structure hardly attracts the kind of numbers that it has the potential to.

In a reply in the Lok Sabha, Tourism Minister Ambika Soni had said that of the 39.19 lakh foreign tourists who visited India in 2005, only 5.94 lakh, or just about 15 per cent, went to see Taj Mahal. This small number still made the Taj the top destination for foreign tourists, followed by Qutub Minar at 11 per cent — a fact that points to the failure of India's national monuments to attract tourists.

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