Review GST on J&K tourism

In order to promote and encourage tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, the need to review the decision of implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on it , has been felt – besides by those who are directly and indirectly connected with tourism, by a high level Parliamentary Committee. It has recommended to Central Government about taking a renewed and reconsidered decision on the matter. Here, it would not be out of place to mention that tourism is the backbone of the State economy and generates a lot of economic activities which undoubtedly could get benefitted more in case there were massive concessions in the tax rate announced or abolished it for some fixed period with a proviso to review the decision thereafter.
The panel in its considered views, has pointed out that sourcing of products and materials is an issue in the State as per their interaction with and quoting the concerned stakeholders accordingly. To prove the point , unlike in other states, residents of Jammu and Kashmir and the State’s business owners spend a good measure of money on procuring essentials, majority of which have to be transported from other states which increased their capital expenditure. The Parliamentary Committee has underlined the “sensitive nature” of the State which it felt to be taken into consideration during development of tourism in the region. They have listed manifold effects on the economy on account of implementation of the GST, which according to their view were mostly negative in nature. In context of that, they have pleaded for “reconsidering” implementation of this tax which also could be mean a gestation period or a moratorium worked out during which this single tax replacing host of others could be kept in abeyance.It could also be deduced that areas and branches of tourism like hotels, transport, Dhabas and small restaurants on highways, food and drinks, houseboats and others could be segregated which could be put under an umbrella of a massively reduced rates depending upon which of the areas felt more hit by the GST.
The Parliamentary Committee has felt that owners of small non star hotels, breakfasts and home stays could not list their “properties” on various travel intermediary websites as there was a levy of 18 percent of GST which cuts across the little profit they make which makes their ventures “unsustainable”. However, the Committee not underestimating the fallout, has suggested the reconsideration to be done in a cautious and phased manner in order to ensure that the delicate State of tourism in the region was not affected. It has further suggested that the Ministries of Finance and Tourism must initiate inter-se “dialogue”.
The Committee has also expressed worry over what it calls as “negative publicity” with regard to militant violence in the valley which it cited as a major hindrance to increasing tourism.The Panel has observed that incidents were blown “out of proportion” which kept the tourists away from the State. It is, however, felt on the contrary that happenings about unabated militant activities sponsored by Pakistan are creating humps and impediments for a smooth influx of tourists rather than reporting by the media about such incidents.The media fulfils its duty towards the country and when such incidents result in the martyrdom of personnel of security forces, army and State police. There have been incidents when tourists were directly attacked which needs not only to be strongly condemned but political leadership of all hues must unequivocally and united(ly) send strong message that terror activities were dampening the otherwise bright prospects of tourism in the State and the same should be stopped forthwith.