New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) The Government has set a target of December 2018 to develop 10 iconic sites in the country and 100 monuments to international standards, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said today.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his Budget speech had said that the government proposes to develop 10 prominent tourist sites into “iconic tourism destinations” by following a holistic approach, besides enhancing amenities at 100 Adarsh monuments under the ASI.

“We will develop ten iconic sites to international level and 100 ideal monuments of our country will be also raised to international status by the year end. We have set a target of December 2018”, Sharma said at the National Conference and Awards on Tourism and Hospitality: Infrastructure, Finance & Outreach’ organized by industry body, Assocham.

Sharma also encouraged bodies like ASSOCHAM and FICCI to come forward and help the government in not only preserving India’s heritage sites, but to also develop them.

He said that with 10 per cent contribution in GDP, tourism has emerged as a powerful instrument for socio-economic development.

“Need of the hour is to develop tourism sector by innovative means that foster people to people contact, generate employment and promote our great cultural heritage,” the minister said.

Sharma also spoke about how his ministry was taking measures to preserve the Taj Mahal, and said that while the research body, NEERI, had suggested restricting the tourist footfall per day at the iconic site to 50,000 per day, he has decided against it.

“There was overcrowding at the Taj. Suggestions came that we cap the number of entries to 50,000 per day if we wanted to showcase it for the coming decades and centuries….But we cannot restrict the international tourists who come to India to see the Taj,” he said.

From April 1, the culture ministry has raised the entry fee for tourists to Rs 50 from Rs 40 and restricted the validity of each ticket to three hours. It has also introduced an additional ticket of Rs 200 for entry into the main mausoleum.

The minister also invited public private partnership not only in tourism but in every field.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.