Waive tax on imported goods, services
The owners of hotels, motels, resorts and guesthouses in Bangladesh yesterday demanded tax waivers on the goods imported and services rendered by their businesses in order to develop the local tourism sector and attract more foreign travellers.
Owners currently have to pay a huge amount of duty to import the equipment and products used by their businesses, and value-added tax on services rendered.
They raised this demand at a meeting of the standing committee on hotel, motel, resorts and guest house development of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).
The meeting was held at the FBCCI office in Dhaka's Motijheel.
"We pay a huge amount of duty to import the products and equipment required to ensure modern facilities for foreign tourists," said Mohammed Hakim Ali, owner and chief executive officer of Hotel Agrabad in Chattogram.
Besides, the tourism sector has to pay 37 per cent income tax, which hampers the sector's development.
"And as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has almost destroyed the hospitality industry, we, the owners, demand tax exemptions to compensate our losses," Ali added.
In order to attract more foreign tourists to Bangladesh, members of the standing committee demanded the provision for mandatory coronavirus testing within 48 hours before a flight be removed.
They also called for simplifying the visa application process.
While speaking to The Daily Star, Santus Kumar Deb, associate professor of the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the University of Dhaka, said the lack of branding of hotels and resorts in Bangladesh is holding back growth in the country's tourism sector.
To address the issue, he suggested using digital promotions such as social media to attract foreign tourists.
According to Deb, there is a tariff imbalance in Bangladesh as overpricing of items and room tariffs at hotels, motels, resorts, and guesthouses creates barriers for the sector.
Besides, there is a lack of a standard structure for the sector, he added.
Joining the meeting virtually, FBCCI Senior Vice President Mostofa Azad Chowdhury Babu said: "Hotels, motels and guesthouses were among the most affected businesses amid the pandemic-induced economic downturn."
He said the industry plays an important role in earning foreign exchange.
He urged the standing committee to find out the problems and possible solutions in the sector and submit it to the FBCCI in the form of a proposal.
He said the matter would be discussed by the policy-making body of the government considering the proposal.
Khabir Uddin Ahmed, chairman of the committee, said at least three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are directly involved with the tourism sector.
Other goals are also indirectly dependent on the development of tourism. So, in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030, the tourism industry must be developed, he added.
Syed Moazzem Hossain, a director of the FBCCI, called for ensuring quality services for tourists at reasonable prices at hotels and resorts.
At the same time, he suggested more apprenticeship programmes to create skilled manpower.
Mohammad Mahfuzul Hoque, secretary-general of the FBCCI, said the organisation has been giving due importance to the development of tourism.
Co-chairs of the committee, Khandaker Ruhul Amin, Taofiq Uddin Ahmed, Mohiuddin Helal, AHM Aminul Islam Bhuiyan, Md Mahbub Alam, Mohammad Jahangir Alam, and Mehdi Amin Chowdhury were also present at the meeting.