Agra: Uncertainty continues to baffle tour operators regarding hiking of entrance ticket rates for various Mughal monuments in Agra.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has not so far clarified whether the rates would be revised upwards from April 1, as announced earlier. The new rates were announced last November but due to protests by travel and tour operators including the Indian Association of Tour Operators, as also the local tourism industry, a decision was postponed till April 1 this year.
The present rate for domestic tourists at the Taj Mahal is ₹20. It is now proposed to be raised to ₹50, while for foreign tourists the ticket is for ₹750 but will go upto ₹1250. Rates for other monuments have also been upped.
However, the ASI has not yet announced when the new rates will come into force. According to the local ASI officials, the decision has to be announced by the ministry.
Sunil Gupta of Travel Bureau said the ASI should immediately clarify and clear the mist.
The president of the Federation of Travel Agents Associations of India and senior tourism industry leader Rajiv Tiwari said "they do not have any clear policy. The rates have to be rationalised but the hike should be reasonable. Already we are concerned with the falling number of foreign tourists. The ASI obviously wants to reduce the number of tourists from the conservation angle, while the tourism bodies want the number of tourists to go up. The minister concerned heads both the tourism and culture departments. To increase the revenue we have given several suggestions. If the ASI hikes the rates of tickets, the Agra Development Authority too will increase its share and raise its ticket rate. Presently, the ADA collects ₹500 and ₹250 goes to the ASI, from the ₹750 ticket for foreign tourist."
Officials in the ASI said there was no directive from the ministry so far, which means the present rate structure may continue.
The ASI has been chiefly concerned with somehow reducing the crowd at the Taj Mahal. "The human pollution is creating problems and the increasing number has to be somehow rationalised in line with the NEERI recommendations. One suggestion is to limit the visiting time to two hours per ticket. The other is a staggered system which means you pay more if you want close to the main structure of the monument. Those who see the Taj from a distance pay less, those who go closer pay more," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.