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Indian tourist sites refusing entry to dollar

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Jo Johnson
Financial Times, London
Friday, November 16, 2007

NEW DELHI, India -- Supermodels are not the only ones worrying about the value of their dollar contracts. After years of urging foreign tourists to pay in dollars whenever possible, the Taj Mahal, and other Indian heritage sites will now insist on a proper hard currency -- the rupee.

The country's culture ministry took the step after confronting a sharp fall in the rupee value of its dollar ticket sales.

"Keeping in view international practices and also to avoid any anomaly on account of falling exchange rates of the US dollar vis-a-vis rupee and consequent fall in revenues, the government has decided to denominate the entry fee for the foreigners for all the monuments in Indian rupees only," the ministry said.

This month, the dollar's fall became a subject of tabloid notoriety when it was reported that supermodel Gisele Bundchen had refused to be paid in dollars. Her agent has since denied she had any currency requirements.

Forced now to pay in rupees, US tourists will see a Friday, non-Indians were required to pay $5 per person -- converted to Rs250 if they lacked dollar bills -- to enter World Heritage sites.

The ministry of culture said on Friday the $5 entry fee had been set at a time when the dollar was worth about Rs50, compared to its current value of just over Rs39. The tariff of Rs250 that foreigners will now pay for entry to sites such as the Taj Mahal and Humayun's Tomb is equivalent to $6.41.

"If you convert $5 today, you get only Rs200, so we were losing Rs50 a head," said a culture ministry spokesperson.

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