Entry free for foreigners to monuments not very high : Soni

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New Delhi, Sep 27 (UNI) Amid demand for parity in the entry fee for foreigners with Indians visiting 116 monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, Culture and Tourism Minister Ambika Soni asserted today that the existing dual tariff would continue.

"We don't want to change the existing system of dual entry fee," Ms Soni told mediapersons at a function got up here to felicitate her on the occasion of the "World Tourism Day." Considering the unparalleled beauty and antiquity of Indian monuments, the fee charged from foreigners at present was not at all high, she maintained.

Pointing out that the entry fee to monuments in the UK and the USA was 14 Euros (about Rs 850), she said the rate in India was very less as compared to this.

A fee of Rs 20 is charged from foreigners for a visit to monuments, while it is just Rs five for Indian citizens. Similarly, Rs 250 is charged from foreigners in the case of World Heritage sites like Taj Mahal, while the rate for Indians is Rs 20.

Saying that there was no proposal to bring parity in the entry fee for foreigners and Indians, Ms Soni pointed out that the government had recently brought parity with Indians in the case of visitors from SAARC and BIMSTEC countries.

On the demand for creation of a "Tourism Board," she said there had been discussion on the matter, but no decision had so far been taken. "There is no serious proposal to that effect," she said, while pointing out that Tourism had not been defined in constitution either as central or concurrent subject to put in place more such bodies.

Referring to the shortage of hotel rooms, Ms Soni said many leading hotel chains had now come forward to set up budget hotels in the country. "We will still be short by 150,000 rooms by 2010," she added.

She said her ministry had been discussing the issue of visa-on-arrival with the Home Ministry. The Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) would be introduced once the ongoing modernisation of major airports were completed. The APIS was now introduced on experimental basis in Air India flights coming to Delhi.

Ms Soni said her ministry would identify 15 destinations in the country for the implementation of mega projects worth Rs 25 crore and above. However, clearance for the same was expected from the Planning Commission.

She said the public-private partnership in the tourism sector had helped the growth of tourism at an incredible rate. In this context, she pointed out that the target was 10 million foreign visitors in 2010 from the existing less than five million.

Ms Soni suggested that special thrust be given to Golf Tourism and Shopping Festivals to increase the number of visitors.

UNI

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