Hike is latest attempt to limit footfall after experts say flow of people causing irreversible damage

The ticket price for Indian visitors to the Taj Mahal has been raised by 400%, in the latest attempt to lower tourist numbers and reduce damage to the country’s top tourist site.

Indians make up the majority of the Taj Mahal’s 10,000-15,000 average daily visitors. Nearly 6.5 million people marvelled at the white marble 17th-century masterpiece in 2016.

An all-inclusive ticket for Indian citizens into the Unesco world heritage complex, which includes entry into the Taj Mahal built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, was raised from 50 rupees (55p) to 250 rupees. The price rise came into effect on Monday.

International tourists will pay roughly $19 to enter the site in northern India, up from $16.

“We want people to pay more to limit the footfall,” a spokesperson from the Archaeological Survey of India, the government body responsible for upkeep, told AFP. “This will cut down the number of visitors to the mausoleum by at least 15-20% and generate revenue for its conservation,” the spokesperson said.

The latest move comes only months after Indian authorities restricted the number of tourists to 40,000 per day. Previously, up to 70,000 people would visit the site at weekends.