Pushkar (Ajmer): The swollen Pushkar Lake and the recent visit of the Obamas seems to have worked for the Pushkar Fair that is witnessing a surge in the tourist numbers this season.
Hotel owners believe the brimming lake is one of main reasons for drawing tourists to the holy city. "Last year, there was a slump in the tourist arrivals, but this time the room rates have almost doubled with enquiries still pouring in," said Deepak Sharma, a hotel owner.
The visit of US president Barack Obama and his speech on co-operation in combating terror also seems to have played an important role in attracting more tourists to the Pushkar fair. In the past 10 days, 53 group bookings from US have been made. Bookings from Europe and Australia have also increased," said Vikram Singh, an international guide.
Foreign tourists have once again started feeling that India is safe for tourists, said Sanjay Bandore, a tour operator. Unlike previous years, none of the countries have issued warning against travelling to the fair.
According to sources, the percentage of foreign tourist arrival has declined over the past three years in the wake of the 26/11 and Ajmer dargah blast. Also no warning has been issued by any country against travelling to the fair.
Nealry 5,000 tourists from different parts of the world are expected to witness the 15-day extravaganza.
Besides tourists, sadhus and saints from across the country come to Pushkar during this time to take a dip in the lake on purnima' (full moon). "It is believed that taking a dip in the Pushkar lake on the full moon helps one attain moksha'. We have come all the way walking from Gorakhpur for this auspicious day," said Mahadev Das, a sadhu.
Looking at the large number of tourists on the second day of the fair, the district administration has made arrangements for accommodation at dharmshalas, and taken up a massive cleaning job of the town. The tourism department is also setting up Swiss camps on the dunes. Vigil has been increased at the Brahma Temple.
Cultural fiesta, a hit with foreigners
Foreign tourists are soaking in the Rajasthani culture at the international cattle fair. "It's my first trip here and I am loving it. I participated in some local competitions," said Mark John, an English tourist.
The hot air balloon show, organised for the first time this year, has been an instant hit with the tourists. "It is great to get an aerial view of the beautiful dunes," a tourist said. Several other performances by local artistes have been organised to entertain the tourists.