Impediments for growth of Domestic tourism in India

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Most of the Tourist destinations in India are accessible by road /surface in view of:

a). Accessibility: Lack of access by other mode of travel- Air,Trains etc.

b). Economic viability- Travelling by other mode of transport is as it is expensive over & above alternate transport is required to visit local tourist spots..

c). Convenience- Using a car/ van or bus allows freedom of movement as one avails door to door service & visits to local tourist spots

The facts, stated above, determine that the surface transport plays a vital role in promotion of Tourism. In order to achieve this, I propose the following corrective immediate measures:

1). Reformation of passenger & road taxes: The passenger & road taxes imposed & collected by certain states from commercial passenger vehicles in India need to be uniform & rationalized. For your ready reference:

Hiring an air-conditioned large coach / bus to undertake a 5 days trip to Kullu & Manali Ex. Noida, one ends up paying appx. Rs.49,900/ towards the inter-state taxes alone for the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab & Himachal contrary to the same the hire charges amount to Rs.57,650. In addition a min. 5% GST also applies on the gross invoice amount. This totals to Rs.1,12,928/ -which by any means sounds to be pretty unreasonable from client perspective. In other words, despite of 73 years of Independence for a Tourist, India seems to be a country within countries.

2). Reformation in GST Norms: For boosting tourism, the current GST norms must be streamlined since, currently there is a dual rate of taxation i.e 5% (without ITC) as well as 12% (with ITC) on passenger transport services. I propose, this should be revised to 5% (with ITC). Over & above the GST should be applicable on hire charges only & not on the total invoice value which includes hire charges + toll taxes + inter-state taxes & parking fee. In certain cases (see example above) the tax component put together amounts to 44%. This translates that one ends-up paying tax on tax & the whole purpose (double taxation) of introducing GST remains defeated. Hence, this needs a rectification immediately.

3). Adoption of online interstate taxes payment: Keeping in view your initiative to introduce & promote digital India, certain states have adopted the online payment of interstate taxes whereas Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir still continue the age-old manual practice i.e by making the tourist vehicles halt at their respective state borders for payment of such taxes. This encourages corruption & unnecessary time wastage of tourists, on road.

4). Regulating the Enforcement Agencies: Presently, following are the details & roles of 3 enforcement agencies governing the tourist vehicles plying on Indian roads:
Local Police: Suppose to prosecute if crime of any nature if taking place by the motorists on road.
Traffic Police : Suppose to regulate traffic & prosecute the motorists on road if found flouting any traffic rules.
Enforcement wing of a State Transport Authority: Suppose to verify & ensure that the motorists posses all valid & mandatory vehicle documents including a valid driving license & prosecute the ones not possessing them.

As per the prevailing law, all the aforesaid authorities are empowered to verify all the mandatory vehicle documents. By virtue of these powers, they often tend to stop the vehicles on road & harass the motorists, specially the tourist vehicles. With the result, these tourist vehicles at times are with-held for hours together thereby, causing not only inconvenience to tourists but also mental agony as well as traffic jams. Hence, this law needs to be amended by only empowering the officers of Enforcement Wing of respective state transport authority to stop & verify such vehicle documents.

5). Framing of Govt. policies / rules: The 2 ministries responsible for tourism in India are-The Ministry of Tourism & The Ministry of State Road Transport & High-ways (MORTH).
Both the above ministries frame various policies with-out realizing the ground realities & consult ting the Industry Associations where Industry veterans exist, who can share their invaluable knowledge & inputs. With the result, certain policies / strategies thus framed are irrational & become an impediment in operation of tourist vehicles thereby hampering the growth of tourism in India.
Hence, directions should be given to the concerned officials at both the ministries to ensure that draft policies are shared with the Industry Associations before they get notified & enforced. The valuable inputs given by the Industry Associations should be duly incorporated / accounted for while framing such policies.

6).Grant of separate classification to Tourist vehicles: Separate classification should be granted to all the Tourist vehicles as there operation is majorly inter-city than the vehicles being used for intra-city. Accordingly, the norms for operating tourist vehicles should be determined.