Himachal government to cut new tax on commercial tourist vehicles registered outside state, says CM Sukhu

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Thursday said the new tax on tourist buses registered outside the state will be reduced, amid opposition to the move by hoteliers and other tourism stakeholders.

The announcement came after a delegation of the Shimla Hotel and Tourism Stakeholders Association met Sukhu and apprised him of the negative impact of the tax on tourism in the state.

From September 1, the Transport Department has imposed a tax of Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 per day on commercial vehicles registered in other states and running in Himachal Pradesh.

"The state government would reduce the Special Road Tax (SRT) and other taxes levied on tourist buses, tempo travellers and commercial tourist vehicles," an official statement quoted Sukhu as saying.

The government will also set up a tourist helpline to be linked with the existing helpline number 1100 and added that making a policy for homestays is also under consideration, he said.

The chief minister said the road infrastructure in the state is also being strengthened, besides air connectivity.

Work is underway to connect all districts with heliports. The government also plans to construct another heliport in Shimla to increase tourist footfalls, he said.

Sukhu said his focus is on increasing tourist footfalls to 5 crore per year and sought the participation and cooperation of all those associated with the tourism industry to make Himachal Pradesh "a green and a clean state".

During its meeting with the chief minister, the Shimla Hotel and Tourism Stakeholders Association delegation led by its president M K Seth, submitted a memorandum to him, claiming the new tax has forced tour operators in other states to drop Himachal Pradesh from their packages.

Group tourism plays a significant role in increasing tourist footfalls in the state. The maximum number of tourists come to Himachal Pradesh from Gujarat, West Bengal and Maharashtra between September and February in groups but the situation now is so grave that tour operators have dropped Himachal Pradesh from their packages, the memorandum stated.

This tourist traffic is being diverted to Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand as no such tax is levied by their governments, it said.

The tourism industry, which was in revival mode after the COVID-19 pandemic, crumbled again following the recent heavy rains, the association said, seeking deferment of 10 per cent annual increase in garbage and property taxes for the next five years.

The association claimed the Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam (SJPN) is charging the highest water tariff from hotels, ranging from Rs 96.64 per kilolitre to Rs 177 per kilolitre.

The tariff charged in other cities is Rs 27.71 per kilolitre, it claimed, seeking Sukhu's intervention on the issue.

The association said a meeting of tourism stakeholders, including presidents of all tourism associations in the state, would be organised in Shimla in November to discuss the major issues of the industry.

The main objective of the meeting will be to prolong tourists' stay in the state and create a tourism-friendly atmosphere, thus increasing employment avenues, it said.

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