On August 26, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) announced its new visitor management security measures that will limit visits to India’s most iconic monument to a “maximum of three to four hours.” The eighth wonder of the world attracts 7-8 million visitors each year to view its architectural harmony, domed mausoleum constructed of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones (including jade, crystal, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise) in an ancient technique known as pietra dura, the floors and walkways of contrasting tiles and bricks in tessellation patterns, stunning side hallways, and the small surrounding buildings complimenting the large structure.
Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his cherished wife, the Taj Mahal stands on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. Concerns over environmental damage and wear and tear on the footpaths and walls of the monument caused by massive crowds have prompted UNESCO World Heritage site curators to initiate a visitor management system for crowd control and visitor experience enhancements.
According to Taj Mahal tour guide Aparna Phalnikar, a visit to the monument is often stressful for tourists and staff. The mausoleum – the tour’s final destination – becomes claustrophobic due to the crowds. With guards whistling and visitors shouting, guests are unable to experience the space due to the chaotic circumstances.
Additionally, Phalnikar says crowds are micro-managed to the last minute. “With crowd management there have to be better strategies put in place,” he says. “There is a person working to do every job imaginable, and in the case of the Taj Mahal, there are men who, for a small tip, will clear away crowds of people in the background of your photo.”
The Benefits of Introducing Visitor Management
A robust visitor management system will help with long lines of visitors who purchase general admission tickets. These long queues can be bypassed by upgrading to a “high value ticket” that costs more, but gets visitors in within minutes – an upgrade most foreign visitors opt for, leaving general ticket holders lined up for blocks.
Visitor management can also help oversee time limits placed on visitors with expiring access badges that alert tour guides and security to those who have overstayed their limit. It can register and approve visitors faster, streamlining general ticket holder lines to improve the visitor experience. Without strictly enforced time limits for visitors, efforts to minimize environmental damage and make the tours as enjoyable as possible aren’t likely to be achieved.
“Every significant heritage site requires a visitor management plan,” says Ratish Nanda, Chief Executive, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, India. Whether you manage a world heritage site, museum, entertainment facility, enterprise, or any business that hosts visitors and guests, visitor management is a must for security.
Contact the Experts
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