Stakeholders in the tourism industry on Friday opposed the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) proposed hike on ticket rates for both foreign and domestic tourists visiting the Taj Mahal.
They objected to the second hike in two years and stressed on the need to focus on tourist problems like crowd management instead of ‘commercialisation’ of historical monuments.
According to the ASI proposal, ticket rates will be hiked for domestic tourists, nationals from SAARC and BIMSTEC countries and foreigners from other nations.
The ticket cost at monuments in Agra will include the share of both ASI and Agra Development Authority (ADA). The current charges for the ticket for Indians at the Taj Mahal are Rs 40 out of which Rs 30 goes to ASI and Rs 10 to ADA. It has been proposed to raise the cost to Rs 50 out of which Rs 40 will go to ASI.
Foreigners at the Taj Mahal are presently charged Rs 1000 which is shared equally by ADA and ASI but as per the notification dated December 21, the ASI proposes to enhance its share to Rs 600 which would raise the ticket cost to Rs 1,100.
“We received the notification two days ago. According to the procedure, the same has been circulated for inviting objections to it within 45 days” said Dr Bhuvan Vikram Singh, superintending archaeologist for Agra circle, ASI office, Agra.
Tourism trade bodies are preparing to file objections to the proposal. Trade pundits have expressed displeasure over the fact that ASI officials were aware of the notification about the hike but they didn’t share the information during meetings held on January 2 and 3.
“Foreigners are already paying a hefty amount of Rs1,000 for visiting the Taj Mahal despite crowd mismanagement and lack of facilities and infrastructure. However, nothing concrete has been decided to resolve these problems … but the second hike within two years is not welcome,” complained Rajeev Saxena, secretary of the Tourism Guild of Agra.
The industry has also objected to the ‘secrecy’ maintained by ASI officials about the notification saying it wasn’t discussed at a meeting in January.
“Inflow of foreign tourists is on the decline. Instead of providing incentives, ASI seems to have failed in reading the writing on wall,” complained Saxena who stated that objections will be filed to oppose the proposed hike, especially for foreigners.
“The notification for the proposed hike is dated December 21, 2017 but it was not discussed during the meeting held on January 2 where we got an opportunity to interact with the director general of ASI, Usha Sharma. This has created a trust deficit and raised questions on transparency as we came to know about the notification today,” added Saxena.
President of the Federation of Travel Association for Agra, Rajiv Tiwari is also drafting a set of objections and is of the opinion that the hike is no answer to crowd mismanagement.
“It is not for the first time that ticket rates are being hiked. Foreign tourists are already being charged an adequate fee and any further rise will not be welcome from the tourism point of view,” stated Tiwari.
The president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Agra, Rakesh Chauhan said,”We will file objections and oppose the proposed hike in ticket rates. We will also call for effective measures to addressing crowd management,” stated Chauhan.
Indians and those from SAARC and BIMSTEC countries will now have to pay Rs 10 per head extra to visit UNESCO World Heritage properties or category ‘A’ monuments, including the Agra Fort.