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Hotel body demands sops from Bengal Govt

Our Bureau

Applauding the National Tourism Policy-2002, Mr Kothari said the basic principles of the policy should be implemented.

KOLKATA,Sept. 8

HOTEL & Restaurant Association of Easter India (HRAEI) representing about 430 hotels and restaurants in the eastern region, has urged the West Bengal Government to accord industry status to restaurants and thereby facilitate this segment in the hospitality industry to grow at a faster rate.

The city based hotels and restaurants in the organised and semi-organised sectors are passing through difficulties following the sharp fall of foreign and domestic business tourists in recent times.

The fall of tourists in-flow was largely because of the economic slowdown in the eastern region coupled with the impact of 9/11 terror attacks in the US.

Explaining the current state of affairs of the tourism and allied industries in the eastern region, the outgoing president of HRAEI, Mr S.S. Kothari, told newspersons here on Friday that the Government machinery must promote private sector in the development of tourism, keeping only the policy making under the hands of the Governments. This apart, outdated and irrelevant provisions of Labour Act must be changed in conformity with the changing scenario worldwide.

Mr Kothari said though the hotel segment was accorded industry status by the West Bengal Government in 1995, the full benefit arising out of it was yet to percolate to them. It must ensure that the hotel segment get full benefit as an industry.

Applauding the National Tourism Policy-2002, Mr Kothari said the basic principles of the policy should be implemented.

He was of the view that unless the burden of taxes and prevailing licensing system were rationalised and a serious attempt was made to recognise the potential of tourism industry, it would be futile to frame a policy.

Urging the need for forming Tourism Advisory Council with key stakeholders to act as a "think-tank", he said the hotels and restaurants should be declared as an essential service sector keeping it out of the purview of any "bandh or strike".

Mr Kothari said that apart from essential investment in tourism infrastructure, such as roads, highways, railway network, airports, aircrafts and so on, proper planning and investment should have to be made for substantial future growth of the tourism sector.

He, however, felt that irrational tax structure in West Bengal was encouraging smuggling and infiltration of liquor from other States.

The quantum of sales tax at 16.5 per cent on food and liquor in the State was highest in the country with 7 to 13 per cent in other States, thereby affecting the growth of hotels and restaurants.

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