Atanu Dey On India's Development

Ripping-off Foreign Tourists — Part 2

So it would appear that wisdom is slowly dawning on the idiots that make policy in India. Last week I read that the powers that be have finally come to realize that it is not a good idea to rip off foreign tourists by charging foreigners more for services compared to Indian nationals. (When this discriminatory pricing scheme will be dismantled is of course anybody’s guess given the glacial pace of change in matters bureaucratic.)

I had written about this in Dec 2004 in the post Ripping-off Foreign Tourists:

Another thing that bugs me no end is the differential pricing scheme that they have for entry into tourist places in India. For instance, at the Golconda Fort, an Indian is charged Rs 5 (about $0.10) as entry fee but for foreigners it is Rs 100 (about $2.) It makes you wonder. Are the people who make up these schemes stupid or are they xenophobic or are they racist or all of the above? Surely, ripping foreigners off cannot amount to welcoming them.

Besides, how do they enforce this sort of blatant discrimination? Technically I am a foreigner because I don’t have an Indian passport anymore. So unless they ask people to produce passports, the only way for them to suspect that one is a foreigner is by the color of their skin. Basically it boils down to this: if you don’t look Indian, you are required to pony up 20 times what an Indian-looking person would pay to have the same privilege.

It is morally repugnant to discriminate against people, even if the discrimination is against those who are presumed rich. Not just that, it is commercially short-sighted because people notice this sort of blatant double-standards and it affects the overall tourist traffic into the country.

Which brings me to a broader issue: who are the people who make idiotic rules and regulations? It should be mandatory that to each regulation or rule, the name of the person who is responsible should be firmly associated with it. It will serve as a good incentive for the passage of good rules and regulations. For instance, the discriminatory pricing scheme must have been proposed by some idiot but we don’t know who. If we knew, at least some of us would be happy to heap scorn and derision on him or her for having hurt India’s image.

A bureaucracy that is nameless and faceless has no checks on it. Even now, hundreds of senseless rules are being made. It is time to make it so that people are made accountable for the decisions they make. Unless the bureaucrats are held accountable for their actions, they will have no incentive to do due diligence before erecting bureaucratic hurdles.

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  • http://broadbandblog.in Abhishek

    lol. “Glacial pace of reforms”. Indeed Atanu. No better way to describe the sloth that seems to affect the bureaucracy. In my own interaction, I have chanced on czallions of demented morons who cleared their IAS 30 years back. They become fossilised, dumb asses and are loath to change.

    The broader subtext that you haven’t highlighted here is that these assholes are derived from the same fabric of society that we are a part of. In my opinion, if the status quo has been maintained for the past 50+ years, it’s because we have become accustomed to these people and their mannerisms. This can only be changed if the people demand change. Write mails, protest, express but don’t take the things lying down. Accountability can only come if we as a populace demand the same. Frankly, I would squarely blame the educated class for the same.

    The things aren’t that bad. I know of certain officers who go beyond the call of duty and those who are trying to make the best of the given situation for the benefit of the people. They remain far and few in between overburdened by the overwhelming deluge of idiots around them.

  • http://parvativetri.blogspot.com Parvati

    Indeed! – glacial pace of change is a very telling phrase!

    Discriminatory pricing is so appallingly stupid, that I wonder at its being a full-fledged policy until recently..

  • http://chocolateandgoldcoins.blogspot.com/ Michael H.

    Hi Atanu
    This two-price system is a strange way to welcome tourists. I booked a room in Kerala for my family and my parents-in-law. The cost was a rather steep $215 a day (and not really worth it). They charged me that rate for both room even though may parents-in-law are Indians.

    India is a great place to visit otherwise. There is a lot to see, lots of great food, uncrouded beaches, and lots of friendly people at your service at any of the nicer hotels. So if the government abandoned the two price system, I think India might become a major tourist destination. The Kabini River lodge was an awesome experience – I heartily recommend it.

  • http://www.latestinindia.com Ashish

    I agree completely with you, Atanu. This is so embarassing. I went to Agra with somebody with a German passport and at all the places, they charged me 10 times less than what they charged her. This is clear discrimination – something that never happened with me in the US. Charging more for some extra service provided is fine but charging different amounts just because of a different nationality is ridiculous (and embarassing).

  • Praveen

    This is not limited to government rules. Even when foreigners working in India try to find a house for rent in Bangalore, the price shoots up.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/gopalms/ SloganMurugan

    On the other hand backpackers have their own network of places where they can stay for peanuts. However these places are kept offlimits for most Indians.

    Indians not allowed:
    http://spaces.msn.com/gopalms/blog/cns!51D5A2013B339648!1010.entry?_c11_blogpart_blogpart=blogview&_c=blogpart#permalink

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  • sunil barot

    Atanu,

    I usually like to give you a different point of view of topics you blog. That does not mean I totally disagree with you.So let me give you my take on this one.

    Why do you charge 10 times or more for the same “chai” or “tandoori chicken” when you know that your clients can afford it although you are serving almost same food as one in a comparable but cheap place. Being an economist yourself I do not have to explain that price is sometime directly propotional to what you can afford. Different pricing should not be looked as discrimination although the differance of price should look reasonable and to be modified from time to time.
    I rarely see any positive comment or topics in your blog which is not a good sign.
    sunil

    Atanu’s response: Economists are well-versed with the idea of price-discrimination — we even have different degrees of it — first, second, and third. The same good being available at different prices under different circumstances is not the same as charging different people for it under the same cirumstances. The latter is not price-discrimination but people-discrimination.

    I can choose to have a dosa at a modest place for Rs 10 or a dosa at a fancy place for Rs 100. But if at a place they charge you Rs 20 and they charge me Rs 50, it is not price-discrimination. However, as a private vendor, the dosa seller can people-discriminate and I will have no problems taking my dosa requirements to some other dosa seller. But if the government discriminates against me, that is not acceptable, and becomes totally unacceptable when I don’t have the choice of going elsewhere. For example, if admission to the Taj Mahal is based on who I am, then I cannot protest and go to another establishment to get my view of the Taj Mahal.

    Regarding the lack of positive content on this blog: First, there are more able people than I am who are doing an excellent job of reporting all sorts of positive things, right from our very own President APJ Kalam to the globalization maestro Thomas Friedman. They accentuate the positive. Second, very few people take the time to figure out the causes of our troubles. Most people are busy taking care of the symptoms. I want to understand the causes (which are few) of our failures (which are many). GoodNewsIndia already exists; I am working on “BetterNewsIndia” which says that if we stop being stupid, we would do much better than if we were to aim to be clever.

  • http://360.yahoo.com/spirit_of1099 Tim B

    As regards SloganMurugan’s comment, it is crazy and laughable to think that an Indian can’t get at least the same deal for accommodation as a foreigner in any town or village in the country. The few (very few) hotels that only deal with foreigners do so because they have had problems with professional Indian thieves who target foreigners, staying at their establishments. Whether the correct response was to ban Indians, is another debate, but it has HOTHING to do with making sure only foreigners get the best prices! Most locations that get foreign visitors (Puri, Mamallapuram, Hampi etc.)have certain areas where they congregate and these are where a few “tourist only” hotels are found. There are always equivalent nearby localities where Indian tourists congregate, which are just as good.
    As for sunil’s comment, well I think any nation’s “tourism industry” must be about making people feel welcome, happy and comfortable, and not about what is directly “propotional [sic] to what you can afford”. If he were in London, on a bus, and the driver charged him double, simply because he was brown skinned and looked as if he could afford it, he would outraged and offended, and yet for some reason he thinks foreigners should be happy with this kind of thing in India. If people not born in India and without Indian passports can pay the Indian price simply because they look Indian (IE: NRI’s, Sri-Lankans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis & Afghans) whilst others get stopped to pay ten times more – then this can be classed as racial discrimination. If anybody thinks racial discrimination is the way to boost tourism in India (the country’s largest foreign exchange earner after textiles) then they are stupid. Take for example tiny Singapore, it has 3 times India’s tourism and yet it has 100 times less to offer! Singapore actually makes a big effort to make visitors feel like welcome guests, and on the back of this attitude they have become a First World nation and have a first rate tourist industry. If India somehow thinks that discrimination and exploitation is the way forward, then they have much to learn, and much to lose.
    I too have written much more about this subject (and other related matters) in my blog. http://360.yahoo.com/spirit_of1099

  • puneet

    hey guys puneet here …im not a economist or anything…just a student studying economics in yr.12 in the IB diploma…i really want to know something on the price discrimination of auto rikshaws towards foreign tourists and partiality towards indian citizens…can someone please send me something on my email??…thanks a lot…i reallly need this..puneet.metallica@gmail.com

  • slavmiry

    hello,

    would just like to make a comment…I am in india currently and have to say that this attitude you describe in your blog I am experiencing right now and also feel that this in the long run leads to animosity in the bigger picture of cultural relations. I feel that it is absolutely going backwards.. I am from Russia and no longer live there…the last time I was there was 13 years ago and experienced this for the first time…There it was cultural discrimination as well as racial…haven’t had this experience in a long time…the extra rupees that rick shaw drivers, shopkeepers and recently discovered airlines (could you imagine…you pay more as a foreigner for an airline ticket) does not do anything for the country except leave people irritated and not wanting to come back…people all around the world have been fighting discrimination and now the discrimination is economic on the surface but still the same separatism underneath…us and them…stupid when you think that travelling and wanting to see other places and meet other people and learn about other cultures is about breaking down walls and lines.. thanks for your commentary…
    slava