Arvind Kejriwal donned the listener’s hat, as a select group of industry stakeholders met with Delhi CM in the secretariat. Issues related to taxation, product enhancement and need for a long-term vision for tourism in Delhi were discussed in great detail. He assured his full support to the industry. Excerpts of his take on issues and more:
CM on immediate deliverables
“I acquainted with a number of new facets related to tourism. From what I gather, there are a large number of low-hanging fruits, issues that can be immediately resolved, yielding very good results. There are many areas that needed medium and long term planning for visible impact. I could sense that the issue of luxury tax needs to addressed, but the matter is handled by excise and entertainment commissioner, and I was not aware that this will be the issue which will be discussed prominently, else I would have called him.”
Government needs to be convinced about the merit of reducing luxury tax
He stressed that the government had a business-friendly outlook. “I can only tell you that in this year’s budget, by and large, we have reduced taxes across the board. We have reduced VAT. All of it was done without any aggressive lobbying by those respective sectors. We were congratulated by representatives of various industries who admitted that there was a change in modus operandi of the government. Our actions were based on conviction. Once we were logically convinced about reducing taxes, we went ahead with it,” he said.
Asking to convince the government on luxury tax issue with logic, he said that once the government was convinced, there would be no hesitation in a roll back.
Law on luxury tax being misinterpreted
Referring to the law which forced hotels to shell out tax on printed tariff, he said “entertainment commissioner tells me that the provision is already in the law. The law is being misinterpreted, so maybe we can have a meeting with him and ask him to issue a clarificatory order. He is of the opinion that no change in law is required, hotels need to pay tax on the applied rate and not printed rate.”
On the argument that Delhi was losing out on business from destinations like Jaipur and Agra due to exorbitant tax structure, he noted that “I think that when a person comes to stay in Delhi, he will stay in or around Delhi. It is difficult to believe that he would shift to Jaipur only because of higher taxes. He may well go to Noida and Gurgaon.”
Delhi needs a perspective plan for tourism; must have a transactional website
Agreeing to the need for a perspective plan for the city, CM noted that Delhi needed to have a long-term goal and then work backwards to achieve it. “There is need for a radical change. Some good suggestions like dedicated zones for round the clock shopping, commercial activities and night-bazaars, which are easily doable, have come forth,” he said. Suggesting an overhaul of Delhi tourism’s online outreach, he batted for, not only, an informative but a transactional website, wherein one could book reservations for entertainment shows, restaurants and cabs.
Industry could manage the institute, government will provide infrastructure
On the question of need for inculcating adequate skilled manpower, CM readily agreed for co-operation. “We would be more than happy to work with you (stakeholders). In fact, we are open to having the hospitality industry run the institute. The government will provide entire necessary infrastructure.”
Talking about a committee to monitor tourism related projects and initiatives, Arvind Kejriwal said that instead of having a government appointed board – and he had seen plenty of them – industry needed to come forward and carry the mantle.
Sharing that the government had done away with unnecessary clearances for conducting events, he said that “one can obtain permissions and all related NOCs in a matter of an hour. Delhi has been a host to a number of national and international events in the past few months.”
Create a vision document with clear action plan
He re-assured that the government was going to be nimble-footed in implementing good ideas that were brought to his attention. “Why cannot we become a destination like London? If some of you can form a committee and envisage a practical long-term plan for the city, we will take it forward. Please understand that there are agencies like Police that are not managed by us. Therefore, keeping in mind the parameters, please come forward with doable suggestions,” he stressed. He, however, requested for gaining clarity on short, medium and long terms goals. “Otherwise, the entire exercise of formulating a board becomes redundant. Please hand us over a crisply laid out vision document in under a month’s time which will highlight our way forward,” he concluded.