UNESCO Hails Taj Rank
AGRA: Leading international travel website TripAdvisor has rated Taj Mahal as the second-best UNESCO wprld heritage site in the world. Welcoming the announcement, hoteliers in Agra said the need of the hour now was to rectify the "colossal mismanagement " of the historical site and sort out local irritants to ensure that the image of the Taj never falls in the eyes of tourists. The website ranked the Taj just after Cambodia's Angkor Wat, with China's Great Wall coming third. In order of ranking, the other world heritage sites in the top 10 are Peru's Machu Picchu, the Iguazu Falls shared by Argentina and Brazil, the Sassi of Matera sites in Italy, Auschwitz in Poland, the Old City of Jerusalem, areas in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Old City of Krakow in Poland. The big problem is touts (locally known as 'lapkas') who operate in well-organised gangs. They pose as guides, photographers or taxi drivers and start pestering tourists, both Indian and foreigners, for their services and charge exorbitant rates from them. They sometime even get aggressive with tourists and go to the extent of threatening them, if the latter refuse to take their services. Security is also another factor that bothers hoteliers. "Tourists who come here should feel safe rather than always looking over their shoulder," said president of Hotel and Restaurant Association, Rakesh Chauhan, adding that every time a case of assault on foreign tourist happens, like the recent attack on a Swiss couple, it makes international headlines, bringing a bad name to Agra.