Odisha has a vast potential for the development of tourism. It is one of the critical sectors of the state’s economy, in terms of foreign exchange earnings as well as employment generation opportunities. In 2017, 14,011,229 domestic tourists & 100,014 foreign tourists visited the state of Odisha.
Over 12 million tourists arrive in Odisha every year, and the sector sees a growth of 9-10 percent annually. The Odisha government had even announced investments to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore in the tourism sector by 2021. Several initiatives have been taken in recent times along with a pro-active tourism policy.
It is in this backdrop that the PATA India Chapter Executive Committee meeting comes handy. Under the chairmanship of Union Tourism Secretary Yogendra Tripathi, a meeting with the travel trade of Odisha was held on September 4th where the travel trade came up with several suggestions.
Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy, IAS, Tourism Secretary Vishal Dev, and Tourism Director Nirmal Chandra Mishra too were present. Chairman – Hotel & Restaurant Association of Odisha & IATO Eastern Region and Co-Chairman – FICCI National Tourism Council J K Mohanty represented the trade body.
Several suggestions were made in regard to the growth of tourism in Odisha:
- The potential of Odisha Tourism should be highlighted in all presentations of the Incredible India Campaign of the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India.
- Brochures of Odisha Tourism should be made available for the information of tourists in all India Tourism Offices abroad.
- Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India should l examine the development of Chilika lake as a place for water sports and other activities and take advantage of the natural gift of the 1100 sq km Chilika Lake which is the largest lagoon in the Northern Hemisphere.
- The Buddhist Circuit of Odisha doesn’t figure prominently in the Buddhist Circuits promoted by India Tourism. Therefore, it was suggested that infrastructural development facilities in the Buddhist Circuits be developed.
- As Bhubaneswar has been declared the No.1 Smart City of the Country, it was suggested that w a mega Convention Centre as conferences and conventions should be set up. Since a number of new hotel projects are also coming up in the State, a mega Convention Centre us badly needed which could cater to different stakeholders.
- Hotels with a room tariff of Rs.7, 500/- and above are facing a severe constraint for being placed in the highest GST slab of 28%. It is the highest tax rate on hotels in the World (Indonesia 5%, China 6%, Malaysia, China, Singapore & Spain 7%, France 10%, Nepal & Sri Lanka 13%, USA 15%. The levy of 28% GST thus constitutes a serious tax-driven economic barrier for foreign tourist arrival to India and would prove unfavorable to the growth of foreign exchange earnings of hotels. The hotel industry needs to be rationalized and made tourist-friendly for this GST rate. It was suggested that GST on hotels having a tariff of Rs.7, 500/- and above be reduced from 28% to 8%.
The final suggestion was that hotels should be included in infrastructure category under section 80-IA of the Income Tax Act to avail deduction of 100% profits and gains obtained from the business for a time period of 10 consecutive years out of 15 years from the date of its commencement like projects such as Airports, Bridges, Highways, Sanitation, Telecom Sector, Power Plants etc.
The Union Secretary assured the travel trade of Odisha to take these suggestions forward with the Ministry.