Atithi Devo Bhava: Extra charges for foreigners

Hyderabad, July 01: According to the Andhra Pradesh Tourism website, “With more than 600 tourist locations, the second largest coastline in the country, 1000 years of history and pilgrimage centres of every major religion, AP is truly ‘the essence of India’.” Sounds welcoming? But reality doesn’t quite live up to expectations of foreign tourists.

Many tourist destinations in Hyderabad have different entry fees for foreigners and local citizens. The fee for foreigners is almost 15-20 times more than what locals pay.

Japanese visitor Jun Oguro had come to the city for a conference and wanted to visit the Charminar. He was asked to pay Rs 100 for entry into the Charminar. There was even a board which said that foreigners had to pay more. “I am also a tourist in your city. Why are there different rules for citizens and foreign tourists?,” Oguro asked. “I had to pay 20 times more for the ticket. This is so unfair.”

The entry ticket of Rs 5 is only applicable to citizens of South-Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries on providing identity proof and for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) citizens, according to a board hung on the ticket counter outside Charminar. “Back in Japan, we have special discounts for foreign tourists. We respect tourists and make sure their stay is comfortable and convenient.” he continued adding, “In many European countries, tourists even get discounts on railway passes. Why is that not the case here?”? “If people at these places are doing it without the notice of the government, they must to be questioned and there must be a regulation,” Oguro said.

According to the deputy superintending archaeologist ASI, Hyderabad, D Kanna Babu all entry fees for these tourist destinations have been fixed by the ministry and a government order was released to all departments concerned.

The response of most officials was they never paid an attention to this issue and most did not even know why it was framed in such a way.? Even at other popular tourist destinations like the Salarjung museum, the entry ticket for an Indian citizen is Rs 10 whereas it is Rs 150 for a foreigner. Mohammed Abdul Arif, administrative officer, Salarjung museum said, “This is our country’s policy. We have received instructions from the Tourism ministry and we have to follow them.”

Chowmahalla Palace also has an entry ticket of Rs 30 for Indian citizens whereas it is Rs 150 for foreigners, which is 5 times more. Public relations officer, Chowmahalla Palace Sharad Kantigir said, “I think the government set these rules and are charging foreigners in terms of dollars. This has been going on for almost 10-15 years now.” Its the same even at Golconda fort where locals pay Rs 5 and foreign tourists have to pay Rs 100.

Mahayar from Egypt, who is an MA student at Osmania University and a photographer feels, “It is very unfair on the part of the government to charge so much. But I cannot complain since it is the same back in my country.” He added, “Sometimes I cannot travel to a lot of places since it is too expensive. I love taking photographs and travel. But I guess I have to pay more for being a foreigner.” Another discrepancy is the fact that auto drivers are ready to fleece foreign tourists. “Many auto drivers charge a minimum of Rs 100 from a foreign tourist to even travel small distances,” said Yashna.

“Sometimes I can fool around a little since my complexion is a little Indian. But my other friends still face a problem.” The city hotels, however, compensate for the foreigners. The Marriot Hotel charges the same for both Indian and foreign customers and if the latter book their travel through an agency, it is less than for normal citizens as well. ITC Kakatiya’s reservation manager, CB Prabin said, “Reservation charges for both Indian and foreign tourists is the same.”