Recently, on a coffee break with a colleague, she talked about a video she came across of a Moroccan traveler who was traveling to India and was outraged at high ticket prices for foreigners at some of the important historic sites in India. My colleague too was disgusted with that saying this kind of “discrimination” is bad. She was all the more shocked to see this approach/attitude coming from the government.
It’s true that many countries (or probably most) may not be having this kind of differential pricing but then, for me, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good reason.
While discussing this topic, one needs to understand two things properly:
- Differential Pricing
- Every Difference is Discrimination
1. Differential Pricing
Differential pricing, as a concept, isn’t new. For the same goods or service, often different charges are levied on different customers. Now, the basis may vary depending on the goods/service in question and many other factors. But everybody getting charged the same for a good/service may not happen every time. It is neither good for customers, nor for business. And screaming “discrimination” at the sight of two price points is really naive.
2. Not Every Difference is Discrimination
One of the principal argument in favor of the same pricing of tickets at all sites is that not all foreigners are rich. Many are average middle class who are on a budget and save the hard earned money for the trip, especially the backpackers. On the other hand, there are Indians who are rich but still pay subsidized rates. Very true.
Via Rail Canada charges discounted fares for senior citizens while regular adult fares for everyone above the age of 12. Will that be called discrimination? Aren’t there rich senior citizens who can actually afford to pay full adult fare? And aren’t there poor or middle-class adults who may not be able to pay the full adult fare? What about the children of rich adults who might be charged the same fare as children from poor or middle-class families.
Also, by that logic, when Indians travel to western countries, they should get subsidized rates at tourist sites. But that doesn’t happen. I’m not even saying that should happen. But this is just the example of the extent to which the logic can be extended.
There will always be exceptions who might be getting an unfair advantage of certain policies and some who might be getting penalized unnecessarily. It is always improvisation.
Also, if this pricing was hurting India, it would have been reflected in India’s tourism figures which say otherwise with an increase of 52% in the last five years.
Many people have compared the ticket prices at historical monuments and heritage sites in India vs the world, citing that even with the so-called extraordinary prices, India is still the cheapest place in USD terms. While that may be true, it is still a bad argument since pricing isn’t to make Indian heritage sites entrance prices at par with the global level. That is not what dictates pricing.
Lastly, we often miss the complete picture or the larger context when trying to analyze things. We need to keep that in mind.