Agra: Undeterred by the swine flue scare, people in Agra are in full celebratory mood ahead of the 10-day annual cultural extravaganza Taj Mahotsav which commences here Wednesday at the Shilpgram complex, barely 500 metres from the Taj Mahal.
After a long and cold winter, the city of Taj Mahal appears to have woken up from its deep slumber to the chirping of birds and fragrance of full bloomed flowers.
The cool February atmosphere is also providing the right kick for a whole lot of outdoor activities.
Over a fortnight after Basant Panchmi, it is time for celebrations with the god of love, Kamdev and St. Valentine still smiling on the romantically inclined.
Teenagers and those engaged in prolonged courtships look forward to the annual 10-day Taj Mahotsav, which celebrates the spirit of the youth with music, fun and eating out in the open as the cool breeze enlivens the mood.
Divisional commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar told media persons Tuesday that the Uttar Pradesh Tourism was making special efforts to draw more tourists to the annual fair.
It is being hoped that the negative effects of the economic slowdown, which affected tourism this season, would get neutralised to some extent.
Tourism officials said a publicity campaign had been launched to keep all hotels and overseas missions informed of the event so that visiting tourists could plan their itineraries accordingly.
Tourism industry leaders, however, say: "Though the number of tourists and local visitors to the Mahotsav has been going up, the failure on the part of the organisers to attract foreign tourists calls for a thorough review of our strategies and efforts."
Some tourism industry leaders feel the Taj Mahotsav had made no impact on tourism and not helped in drawing foreigners.
They say the original objectives to organise this fair were not being fulfilled. The fair had got too much localised like some kind of an extended village Haat.
The fair lacks its distinct appeal and thrust areas that could interest foreign visitors.
"The tourist fails to get a glimpse of the splendour and opulence of the Mughal era," said Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association.
Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society said "Year after year you cannot go on repeating the same old features."
"The flower show or a photo exhibition of monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India should be added. The cultural richness of Braj Bhoomi and the Mughal era should be creatively presented and the local artistes should be given an opportunity to showcase their talents."
"It should not remain a government show managed by indifferent bureaucrats. The industry too should share some responsibility," he added.
"The annual fair is being organised for 24 years without a miss. It is regular, follows fixed schedule which is a necessary pre-requisite for advance planning by foreign visitors, and the package of presentations is also more or less fixed," said Amit Sisodia of Agra Beat organisation.