Well travelled

As the INDIA TODAY Tourism Survey & Awards, 2019, recognised the best and the most popular destinations at an event in Delhi this week, speakers from both the industry and the government expressed concerns regarding the lack of new tourist circuits and the high rate of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on hotels. There was a general unanimity among both the public and private stakeholders that the vast tourism potential of the country lies untapped.

Arjun Ram Meghwal, the Union minister of state for water resources, river development, Ganga rejuvenation plan and parliamentary affairs, agreed that, at 28 per cent, the GST on hotels was too high.

Keynote speaker K.J. Alphons, the minister of state for tourism, pointed out that the total tax on travel in the country touches 33 per centway above that levied in most countries. However, both the ministers insisted that the government was sensitive to the problems faced by the tourism sector and was likely to reduce such taxes soon.

Lack of infrastructure and adequate promotion are the two other hurdles to the growth of tourism, said industry experts. Another issue discussed at the forum was the grant of industry status to tourism, so that those involved in the hospitality business can avail loans at lower rates.

Alphons pointed out that the expressway between Delhi and Agra had added only to the pollution in the region, instead of adding to revenues, as tourists visited the Taj Mahal and returned to Delhi the same day, instead of staying in Agra.

While Vishvendra Singh, the Rajasthan tourism minister, received the award recognising the best heritage destination’ for Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park in Jodhpur, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the tourism minister of Uttar Pradesh, received the best festival destination’ award for the Kumbh Mela. Ashok Chandra Panda, the Odisha tourism minister, received the award for the Rath Yatra.


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