Service Tax for tour operators was increased from 4.5% to 9% for invoices generated after January 22nd, 2017. Tourism is not at all promoted by these kind of decisions.
Tourism is one industry which perhaps contributes more towards a growth of a nation. Its not just a business. Yes, it does collect revenues, but if you study it in details, it does much beyond that and contributes much more towards the Nation Building. In times when we should decrease the taxes further, increasing it does not help, specifically in a developing nation like India. In a Nation which contains more than 70% of the Himalayas, we get very less International Trekkers and Mountaineers in our country compared to Nepal. Many factors like safety infrastructure, availability of knowledgeable resources, access to easy and hassle-free rescue services, use of advanced communication devices, lack of trekker's hut etc results in this less inflow of International trekkers and Mountaineers. Though we are steadily seeing a rise in it, our Government Policy should be more focused on developing infrastructure, increasing safety and better and easy access to rescue systems so that we can motivate and boost Adventure Travel in our Country. More flow of tourists, both Domestic and International, does not just result in increased foreign exchange but also allows for valuable exchange of culture and knowledge share, which results in overall growth of the resources and the nation in overall.
In times, when we should decrease the cost of travel, while maintaining top-class service infrastructure, this policy by the Government demotivates not just the Domestic and International adventurers planning to visit the Indian Himalayas, but also all the Adventure Tour Operators whose packages now got costlier.
The Adventure Tour Operators in our Country already faces great challenges in arranging and organising adventure tours, specifically Mountaineering and Trekking in the Himalayas. Managing quality trained resources, panning and providing safety backups, arranging camping with quality equipment etc incurs too much cost and hence increases the cost of their packages. On top of that additional service tax of 9% adds too much pressure on the wallets of their clients.
The Government should rather focus on building more eco-friendly trekker's hut which not just reduces the cost, but also adds variety to the trek routes and generate further jobs. They should focus more on regulating mass tourism in the remote Himalayan regions which are eco-sensitive zones and needs much care. May be once all the infrastructure setup has been done, and activities like Mountaineering and Trekking gets a steady flow of tourists in the Indian Himalayas, they can then increase the tax to earn revenue from it. Our policy should rather find means to promote the activities, reduce cost of travel and increase safety and reliability while venturing in our remote Himalayas. The action of the policy maker is more like wanting to eat the food without investing money to buy the raw materials and time to cook it.
The Indian Mountaineering Foundation has taken the right steps by slashing the peak climbing fees in the Indian Himalayas. That does help the crisis, whereas this decision of increasing service tax is just the opposite and goes against the vision of developing tourism in our Country.
Increasing tourist inflow by reducing cost and then regulating standard and controlled conduct of the treks to solve the mass tourism problem which is promoted by few profit-hungry and insensitive trek operators is rather the need of the hour.
We can just hope that the corcerned people understands this and rolls back the decision and works more towards a sustainable and tourist-friendly Indian Himalayas.