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Tax waiver for 'Bed and Breakfast' houses
January, 05th 2007

A law for granting exemption from commercial tax on houses letting out their rooms for the tourists during Commonwealth Games 2010 is on the anvil.

Delhi faces a shortfall of at least 30,000 rooms for the expected visitor turnout for the games and the government faces a difficult task ahead with little time and space left in the capital to build new hotels.

"I had discussion with Delhi Chief Minister regarding the impending shortfall and I think the exemption will come in the shape of a bill or Ordinance very soon," Union Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said in an interview to a news agency.

The minister, who floated the scheme of 'Bed and Breakfast' for the tourist to put up as paying guest, hoped the other states will follow suit soon to make for the widespread shortage of hotel accommodation for the inbound traveller.

Under the scheme, a house owner can offer a maximum of five rooms, or ten beds, with air-conditioning facility and

attached western toilets. The owner will also be required to provide Indian and Continental breakfast to the guests and display the rates for the room and breakfast.

There is a shortfall of 150 thousand hotels all over India, of which one lakh fall in the category of budget hotels alone.

The tourism minister said her proposal to give tax rebate to the parties offering to make budget hotels in pending with the finance minister.

"Tax rebate will encourage the parties to make more hotels and we need them badly," Soni said. For the common man, Soni said, the ministry was also encouraging building of 'yatri niwases' and dormitory for families who set out for pilgrimmage or sightseeing, usually on a low budget.

"The President in a speech had said the domestic visitor volume should touch a 10 million mark, and we are sure to reach that by 2010," she said.

Admitting that some terrorist attacks on tourist buses in Kashmir harmed the tourism sector in the state, the minister insisted the militancy had no major impact on the tourism there.

"Recent attack did some damage, but that was not permanent. Look at the hotel rooms last season. They were all full," the minister said.

She said restoring status of Kashmir, which has been called 'Paradise on Earth', as destination number one was among the major priorities of the government.

"As much as Rs 66 crore, a major chunk of ministry's meagerly budget, has been invested in development of Kashmir as destination. Mountaineering institute at Gulmarg has been renovated and at least three tourism authorities have been set up in the state," Soni said.

On the cross border tourism, the minister said China and Pakistan are receiving special attention of the tourism ministry.

"During the last meeting, the President of China and our Prime Minister had declared that like 2006, the year 2007 will also be Year of India-China friendship through the tourism ministries of both countries," Soni said, adding the two countries are slated to hold their festivals this year in each other's place.

"On Pakistan border we are developing Wagah railway station to take the increased load of passengers from both sides. On an average, about 6000 people come to see the change of guard at sunset everyday," Soni said.

Dwelling on the achievements of the ministry, Soni said, "At the international level, earlier the focus was limited to

the western countries such as UK and USA. But now we are selling products such as monsoon tourism to the Middle East."

The ministry was also engaged in promotion to rural tourism and relatively new products such as adventure tourism and cruise tourism, she said

"Cruise tourism is rather less known way of leisure in India, though we have a very long, beautiful coastline. So we are into a major promotional exercise for this promising product," she said.

Stating that attracting MICE (Meetings International Conferences and Events) tourists remain high on agenda, the minister said the thrust is on making world-class facilities and convention halls in the country for these high-spending tourists.

"The international parties interested in holding conferences or exhibitions at halls in India not only pay high, but also spend a good sum shopping here. This way we earn a good revenue which we can spend on further development," Soni said.

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