Agra hoteliers fuming over new tax on tourists

Agra, March 21 (IANS) The Municipal Corporation of Agra is in the process of introducing a new way to raise funds for the maintenance and development of civic infrastructure – a tax on tourists who stay in five- four- and three-star hotels.

Hoteliers, however, are fuming, as a resolution to impose the new tax was passed a few days ago by the corporation.
Despite the stiff opposition from the hotel lobby, municipal corporation chief D.K. Singh says the move is perfectly justified, and can scarcely impose a burden.
“If they (hoteliers) have any objection, let them first reduce their tariff from Rs.50,000 a room to say Rs.5,000. The city’s infrastructure badly needs resources,” Singh told IANS.
“We are only going to charge Rs.100 per tourist per day from five-star hotels and Rs.50 from three-star hotels. The budget homes and lodges have been exempted. A tourist staying in a five-star hotel can easily pay Rs.100. I don’t understand what the fuss is about. The funds will be used for cleaning up the city, for keeping street lights and public toilets in good condition. The resolution has been passed, now it will go to the board and then for notification. Hopefully, we will overcome hurdles and get this implemented.”
The hotel lobby fears that tourism will be impacted.
Senior industry leader Rajiv Tiwari told IANS: “This is atrocious, it’s unreasonable and patently wrong. Already, we are burdened with all sorts of taxes. We will meet the divisional commissioner and oppose the new tax, and also approach the chief minister.”
Municipal commissioner Singh says: “A cup of tea can cost hundreds, its okay to pay thousands for a room, but for the upkeep of the city infrastructure, they can not shell out a hundred-rupee note. From where should we spend money on streamlining, modernising, broad-basing facilities? Electricity bills now have gone up by 40 percent. We are spending huge amounts on maintaining the civic system. For sure, we need funds.”
Social activists back the commissioner.
Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society says: “The city corporation has every right to collect funds from hotels. Tourists should not mind spending a little more for the development of the city. More importantly, domestic tourists, most of whom stay in budget hotels or lodges, have not been touched.”