KOCHI: Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) Society, a leading tourism body of Kerala, has expressed serious concern over high rates of taxation under the new GST regime, saying it would stifle the tourism business in the country by making it unsustainable and drive away the foreign tourists to destinations other than India.
A KTM delegation, led by President Abraham George along with Prof KV Thomas, MP, held meetings with Union Tourism Minister Dr Mahesh Sharma, Tourism Secretary Rashmi Sharma, the GST Council Chairperson and officials of the Union Finance Ministry and GST Council, drawing their attention to the serious anomalies in the GST, which would throw the tourism industry into a major crisis. The delegation included Mr. Riaz Ahmed, past president of KTM and Mr. Jobin Jose, who represented the houseboat industry.
“The high incidences of taxes will make India uncompetitive when it comes to tourism as international tourists will skip the country as a destination. There is almost a 19 per cent tax hike for an Indian product after the implementation of GST. The Centre should address the issue urgently,” said KTM president Abraham George.
KTM has also shot off a memorandum to Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley, pointing out that that ‘the new GST structure is the highest in the world’ and is ‘seriously affecting the sustainability of tourism business.’
In the memorandum, the KTM president appealed to the Centre to reduce the tax for hotels from 28 per cent to 18 per cent, substantially bring down the tax on houseboats and declare tax holiday for inbound travellers. In the pre-GST regime, hotels were charging 19 per cent tax on rooms.
Making a strong case for rectification of tax anomalies, he said the tax has been to the tune of 38 per cent on tour packages for domestic travellers and 33 per cent for inbound international tourists clubbing the hotel tax with tour operators.
“The high tax of 28 per cent plus the tour operator’s tax of five per cent is costing a foreign traveller hotel tariff of 33 per cent whereas the average tax rate in foreign countries is between 7 per cent and 17 per cent,” Mr. Abraham pointed out.
The KTM, which has members from hotels, resorts, houseboats, home stays and tour operators, also demanded bringing down the GST on houseboats from 28 per cent to earlier tax rate of five per cent, saying the high rate of taxation would adversely impact this unique industry of Kerala that employes a large number of people.
“Houseboat has not been mentioned anywhere in the categorisation. Officers are holding different views whether it should be 18 per cent or 28 per cent. We have requested them to cut it down to five per cent,” the KTM president said.
Inclusion of tourism in ‘Make In India‘ scheme, tax holiday for inbound travellers and input credit to tour operators were the other demands raised by the KTM in the memorandum. It also submitted documents on comparative tax rates of pre- and post-GST structures in different states and tax rates in various countries