Almost 4,000 historical sites under the Archaeological Survey of India may have to junk their ‘closed-after-the-sunset’ dictum and remain open for visitors till 9 pm, if a blueprint being prepared by the Ministry of Culture sees the light of day.
A senior official has said that the Ministry of Tourism also has proposed that such sites, which see considerable footfall of both domestic as well as foreign tourists, should not only be kept open till late evening, but activities be arranged in and around them so that they draw more visitors.
“A major issue with our historical sites and monuments is that they close at the sunset. This means that a tourist has nothing to do post-evening. We need to engage them more. We can have more light and sound shows, exhibitions and even plays late evening to draw more tourists, it will increase the footfall considerably. This will also be very helpful in attracting the tourists who come to India for business trips. They get free time in the evenings and want to visit the sites, but are unable to do so. Also, commercial establishment around the sites will be able to generate more revenue as a result,” the official told PTI.
While these plans are currently being finalised, sources in the Culture Ministry said that minister Mahesh Sharma himself is keen to push the closing time of the 3,686 centrally protected monuments/sites under the ASI till at least 8 pm. However, one of the concerns of officials remains security issues in an around the monuments if they are kept open till late evening. Many of them, in fact, are not even illuminated at night because of this reason, he said.
In fact, the Tourism Ministry has proposed to the ASI to not only keep these monuments open after the sunset, but also to illuminate them sufficiently. “Before we keep them open till late, we will need infrastructural upgrades – more toilets, benches, additional guards and above everything else, we need to plan activities every day to keep tourists engaged,” the official said.
Over 10 million foreign tourists arrived in India in 2017 compared to 8.89 million in 2016, representing a growth of 15.6 per cent. Foreign tourist arrivals in March 2018 was 10.26 lakh as compared to 9.05 lakh in March 2017,registering a growth of 13.4 per cent, according to the Tourism Ministry