Tourism industry wants electronic visas to meet targets

New Delhi, Oct 18 (IANS) To attract the envisaged 12 million foreign tourist annually in the next five years as laid down in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), the tourism industry strongly feels the government should ease the visa norms and introduce electronic visas.

"I strongly feel that the government should ease visa norms. It should introduce electronic visa so that foreign tourists travel with lot of ease.

"E-visa is the answer for tomorrow. The government should also make simplified single taxation, which will help us to become competitive," S.M.Shervani, president, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Association of India, said here Friday in an interactive session.

The total number of international tourists that came to India in 2012 was 6.58 million compared to 57.72 million in China, 35.69 million in Turkey and 25.03 million in Malaysia.

The country earned foreign exchange of $17.74 billion in 2012 from tourism industry and till September 2013, it earned $13.20 billion.

Shervani said the hospitality sector is subject to many central and state levies like service tax, value added tax, excise duty and luxury duty.

"The cascading effect of these multiple taxes has resulted in structural distortions in the industry's cost and pricing structure. This in turn, makes us uncompetitive as an international tourist destination," he said.

Hotel accommodation and restaurants must be included in the negative list of service tax, he demanded.

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