BHOPAL: The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a drastic fall in the number of tourists visiting places of archaeological importance and historical monuments in the State. The number of foreign visitors is negligible due to the ban on regular international flights. However, even domestic tourists are keeping away.
Only 20 foreign tourists have visited the world-famous Khajuraho Group of Temples between July last year and January this year after the reopening of the monuments. In 2019-20, their number was 36,886. The corresponding figures for Indian tourists are 91,776 and 2, 21,884 respectively.
Just 10 foreign tourists have visited the Sanchi Stupas in the seven months and their number was 36,886 in 2019-20. The corresponding figures for Indian tourists are 45,770 and 2, 40,221 respectively.
In the year 2019-20, 19 lakh domestic and 53 thousand foreign tourists had visited the 15 ticketed monuments under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in the state. However, this year, (up to January 31, 2021), just 6 lakh Indian and 89 foreign tourists have come to visit these monuments.
They include the Sanchi Stupas and the Khajuraho Group of Temples - both UNESCO World Heritage Sites – and the palaces and buildings at Mandu, the Gwalior Fort, Udaygiri Caves, Bhojshala (Dhar district) and the Burhanpur Fort.
The ASI-protected monuments were closed to visitors from March 24 to July 5, 2020. They were reopened from July 6, 2020.
But even accounting for the closure of the monuments for around three months last year, the drop is huge. In 2019-20, on an average, around 1.63 lakh tourists visited these monuments every month. However, in the seven months (July 2020–January 2021) since the reopening of the monuments, the average number of monthly visitors was just 86,000 – a drop of almost 50%. The situation was even worse in the case of foreign tourists, whose monthly average fell from 4,432 to just 12.
The drop in the number of tourists also impacted the revenue earned by the ASI through sale of tickets. While the amount was Rs 8.11 crore in 2019-20, it fell to Rs 1.52 crore – a drop of almost 81% - in the current fiscal. The earnings from foreign tourists fell from Rs. 2.71 crore to just Rs 31,850 in the same period. Thus, the revenue in 2020-21 formed just 0.11% of the revenue in 2019-20.
The monthly average revenue fell from Rs 67 lakh to Rs 12 lakh. While the ASI earned Rs 22 lakh per month from foreign tourists in the last fiscal, the corresponding figure for this year was just Rs 4,550.
Going by the figures, the Group of Monuments, Mandu is the most popular tourist destination as far as domestic tourists are concerned. It drew 3.79 lakh tourists in 2019-20. It was followed by the Rupmati Pavillion, Mandu which was visited by 3.65 lakh Indian tourists. The Khajuraho temples were the most preferred destination of foreign tourists with 36,886 of them visiting the 10th-century monuments in 2019-20.
This year, up to January 31, only 1.48 lakh Indian tourists have visited the Mandu monuments and only 1.22 lakh have travelled to the Rupmati Pavillion. The number of foreign visitors to Khajuraho is just 20. While the Sanchi Stupas saw 2.40 lakh Indian and 3,296 foreign footfalls in 2019-20, the corresponding figures for the current year are 45,770 and 10 respectively.
Covid-19 was a global tragedy of monumental proportions which affected everyone and hit every sector. So, naturally, tourism was also hit. As things will normalise and international flights would resume, the number of visitors will rise. Meanwhile, we are undertaking developmental works in the monuments and improving the amenities for the tourists.-Piyush Bhatt, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Bhopal Circle.