Children give city of Taj tourist-friendly face

By Brij Khandelwal, IANS

Agra : The city of the Taj Mahal has requisitioned a new breed of brand ambassadors. The Agra district authority Wednesday launched a weeklong programme involving children to make the city “tourism-friendly”.

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This is the first serious initiative by government agencies in combination with local tourism bodies to present a positive image of the city and involve the common man in the “dollar-minting tourism business”, as many see it.

Additional district magistrate Rajeev Rautela, who heads the organising committee of the Tourism Awareness Week celebrations, set the ball rolling Wednesday afternoon at the “Run for Tourism” race from the Eklavya Stadium to the Taj Mahal, joined by thousands of colourfully-attired children from 30 schools.

Rautela said the Indian Industries’ Association, Agra Vikas Manch, Tourism Guild, Federation of Travel Associations and several other bodies were supporting the event.

In the coming days, there will be painting contests focusing on tourism, debates, quizzes, human chains and singing competitions. “The idea is to tell the people of Agra that they too have a stake in tourism promotion and the industry belongs to everyone,” said a hotelier.

In another event, thousands of students took part in an essay-writing contest. The subject was “How to Make Agra worthy of Taj Mahal”. On Sunday, the Agra Cartoon Forum is organising its annual contest. Children will draw cartoons on local civic problems, said forum president Manohar Gidwani.

“With so many institutions and professional bodies getting serious about changing the profile of Agra, which made the news in 2007 with curfews, riots, rapes and snatching, it was time to move ahead with confidence and present a better perspective of this historical city,” said Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Hotels’ and Restaurants’ Association in Agra.