taj mahal, manipuri students
Taj Mahal in AgraReuters

Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, is consistently seeing a dip in foreign tourist arrivals over the years. The numbers have gone down drastically to 648,000 in 2014 from 695,000 in 2013 and 743,000 in 2012 due to the rising crimes against foreigners, the Indian government disclosed March 16.

Sharing the information in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament), the Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (Independent Charge) Mahesh Sharma listed measures that have been initiated to ensure safety and security of tourists, including foreigners, to the venue.

These include setting up of a multi-lingual (including foreign languages) helpline, sensitising state governments about the need for ensuring a "conducive and friendly" environment, among others, he informed the Rajya Sabha.

The drop in tourist arrivals to Taj Mahal has hit overall earnings from the tourist attraction, according to a report by PTI last year.

While revenues were Rs 24.58 crore in 2012-13, they declined to Rs 22.40 crore the next year and dropped further to 21.78 in 2014-15, Sharma had informed the Rajya Sabha last year.

Tourism is a significant source of foreign exchange revenues for India. In calendar year 2015, the country earned $19.67 billion from 80.16 lakh foreign tourists who visited India.

A key factor in the overall foreign tourist arrivals in India going up is the introduction of the e-tourist visa facility, which now is available to the citizens of 150 countries.

In calendar year 2015, 445,300 foreign tourists visited India on e-tourist visas, as against 39,046 in 2014.  

Taja Mahal, which is in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, is also a favourite location for movie producers to shoot film scenes. Besides, it forms one of the three arms of the golden triangle in tourism industry parlance, the other two being Jaipur and Delhi.

Some of the prominent foreign visitors to the Taj Mahal include then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (November 2012), Thailand's then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (in 2012), entertainment host Oprah Winfrey,  actor Tom Cruise, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (in 2010), British actor Ben Kingsley (L) and his wife Daniela (in 2009), Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai, former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf, among others.