Foreigners can book Gir visit online
THE TIMES OF INDIA
Rajkot: Foreign tourists would soon be able to book their visits to Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary sitting in their homes.
The forest department is in talks with several banks to facilitate payment in international currencies on its safari booking website www.girlion.com to facilitate foreigners who are coming in large numbers to watch 'Gujarat's pride.' It is expected that within a month foreigners will be able to book and make payments online from their respective countries.
At present, the foreigners wanting to visit the national park of Devaliya interpretation zone can take online permits only when they come to India and pay in local currency. Currently, this facility is available only to Indian tourists.
After the tie-up with banks, these visitors will be able to use their international credit or debit cards on the booking portal to pay tourist permit charges. The Indian banks will convert the foreign currency and deposit in the account of the forest department.
Sanctuary superintendent of Sasan Dr Ram Ratan Nala said, "This facility will make the online process easier for foreign tourists and we expect their numbers to go up significantly."
In 2016-17, highest number of 6,269 foreign tourists visited Sasan, out which only 410 preferred Devaliya.
A senior forest department officer said, "Most of the foreign tourists prefer visiting Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary because it only has a virtual boundary. They come mainly for photography and videography of Asiatic lions and do bulk booking for five to 10 visits."
On one permit, a tourist in Gir sanctuary gets three hours visiting time, while its just 45 minutes in Devaliya. Majority of foreign tourists come from the UK, US, Germany and France.
Gir sanctuary is spread in 1,421 sq km area of which 258.7 sq km is designated as national park.