Tourism entrepreneurs today urged the government to walk the talk and accord top priority to the tourism sector.
"Though, the Cabinet had decided one year ago to accord tourism sector a 'priority industry' status, it has not been able to get the priority treatment," they said, adding that various government agencies, however, have not yet 'officially' recognised it as national priority industry.
The tourism sector has to be given incentives as it has been contributing to employment generation, the hoteliers said, adding that star hotels and resorts should be allowed to import four vehicles on tax exemption in tourism ministry's recommendation, instead of current two vehicles. "Likewise, the time period of customs benefit on import — for the construction, expansion and upgradation — of start hotels has to be reduced, government should give forced leave to civil servants and encourage them to promote domestic tourism, and it should also appoint travel attaché and establish travel information centres in the diplomatic missions to promote tourism."
The government should also exempt VAT — like in agriculture products — and municipal tax for hotels that comes under the national priority industry, apart from given tax break for the hotels, if someone constructs hotels in underdeveloped districts, the team, led by Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) president Shyam Sundar Lal Kachhapatti, said finance minister Shankar Koirala today also apprising him of the problems they have been facing recently.
The government should also establish sick industry rehabilitation fund for the hotels, they argued.
Koirala, on the occasion, assured them of government assistance to the tourism industry and give them the treatment accordingly as it is one of the largest foreign currency earners.
The government has focused on promotion of tourism in the next fiscal year 2013-14 budget as one of the key priority sectors.
The infrastructure development for tourism promotion has also been on cards in the next budget, though the visitors arrivals and tourism receipts have not been encouraging in the recent months, also due to lack of aircraft with the national flag carrier, and new tourism packages.
The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2013 — published by World Economic Forum (WEF) — has ranked Nepal at the 112th position with 3.42 score among 140 countries. In the last two years there has been no improvement in the country's ranking as in 2011 index also, Nepal was ranked at 112th position. "Among the 25 countries in the Asia Pacific, Nepal ranks at 22nd position," the report stated, adding that the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness index is the composite index of three components; travel and tourism regulatory framework, business environment and infrastructure, and travel and tourism human, cultural and natural resources.
Under travel and tourism regulatory framework sub index, the country ranks at 100, whereas Nepal ranks at the lowest (128) in business environment and infrastructure, and the country ranks at 105th in the tourism human, cultural and natural resources sub index.
However, Nepal is one of the top 25 least-restrictive destinations to travel in 2012, according to the UN World Travel Organisation that has ranked Nepal as 21st open country with a score of 71 in 100.