The Himachal Pradesh government’s decision to impose a revised entry tax on taxis and tourist buses from other states has not gone down well with travel agents from other states at the peak of the festive season. After travel agents in Gujarat, West Bengal and Maharashtra boycotted Himachal, cab operators in Chandigarh and Punjab have issued a warning to also boycott the state over the new taxes.
Previously, the entry tax was levied on staged transport taxes that were not recorded in all temporary permits in India. The state government has now forced tourist buses to pay between $3,000 and $6,000 for vehicles with 13 to 32 seats, regardless of whether they have an all-India permit or not. The government had imposed taxes from September 1.
Taxis from Chandigarh and Punjab are the main mode of transportation to the state and the move will have a significant impact on the tourism industry. Chandigarh-Punjab Azad Taxi Union president Sharanjit Kalsi expressed the body’s displeasure and said that they have stopped accepting bookings for Himachal and are even canceling bookings that they had already accepted.
Kalsi said, “If taxes on tourist permit vehicles across India are not revoked by October 15, we will be forced to suspend travel services to Himachal. The taxi drivers, who had earlier threatened a similar move, temporarily called off their strike following assurances from Deputy Commissioner Solan.
He said the charges were unreasonable and they had started diverting tourists to alternative destinations such as Kashmir, Nainital and Uttarakhand.
Kalsi alleged that his efforts to meet Himachal Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu were unsuccessful.
The tourism industry in Himachal is suffering a blow as most travel and tour agents from Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal refrain from booking trips to the state due to additional taxes imposed by the government.
Shimla tourism association president MK Seth President said many tourists from these states travel to Himachal by buses and tempo travellers. Similarly, most tourists with families come from these three states by train to Ambala or Chandigarh, and then hire other modes of transport to reach Himachal. With additional taxes levied on these alternative means, the tourism industry was being affected as these travelers were diverted elsewhere, he said.
“The new tax imposed by the transport department on tourist buses and tempo travelers will ruin the hotel and tourism industry, which will surely suffer losses,” he said.
Seth emphasized the critical need to repeal the tax as it continues to negatively affect the tourism industry, which is still recovering from the losses suffered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented disasters caused by the monsoon rains that caused landslides and flooding. .
The tourism sector contributed 7% of Himachal’s gross domestic product and 14.42% of direct and indirect employment in the state. The industry is crucial in generating self-employment opportunities for the people of the state.