Darjeeling, Jan. 9: The Darjeeling municipality has decided to form a monitoring committee to oversee the collection of tourist tax as the amount collected by hotels has not been satisfactory.
The tourist tax was introduced on October 15 last year and each tourist was to pay Rs 15 for their stay in Darjeeling.
The municipality had given the task of collecting the amount to the Janmukti Hotel Owners’ Association. They in turn asked the 270-odd hotels to buy booklets. Each booklet has 50 tickets and costs Rs 750, which the hotel has to pay while buying the booklet. The hoteliers later charged the money from the tourists checking into the hotel.
“I have been told that the collection is for around 48,000 tourists. We are of the opinion that more tourists had come to the hills during this period (from last October to December). We have decided to form a monitoring committee that will go to each and every hotel to check their registers to find out if they have raised the money from all the tourists who came to Darjeeling,” said Amar Singh Rai, chairman of the Darjeeling municipality.
The municipality, which is not terming the collection as a tax but “a clean and green initiative” in association with the Janmukti Hotel Owners’ Association, believes that the collection of Rs 15 from a tourist, irrespective of the duration of the stay should be much higher.
Of the Rs 15 collected, the association has been asked to deposit a sum of Rs 10 per ticket with the civic body. The rest is kept by the association as printing charges and also to keep funds aside for beautification of Darjeeling.
Sangay Tshering, the president of the Janmukti Hotel Owners’ Association, said: “The collection has started but we would request the hoteliers to co-operate by taking more booklets depending on the arrival of tourists.” The association members feel that hotels are taking fewer booklets in the absence of a monitoring mechanism.
Samir Singhal, the treasurer of the association, said that so far they have collected the amount from around 48,000 tourists, which is Rs 7.2 lakh.
“Earlier, some of the hotels were not taking the booklets. We had a meeting in Darjeeling a few days back and they have started taking the booklets from yesterday.”
Singhal further said they were also requesting the municipality to form a monitoring committee. “It would be best if the municipality also monitors the drive to ensure that the hotels are selling the tickets to all the tourists,” said Singhal.
A hotel industry source said the collection, which had started from October 15, should have been double by now.
“Around 3.5 lakh tourists come to Darjeeling annually apart from 40,000 foreigners. Since October is also a tourist season we believe around 1 lakh tourists should have come till date,” said a hotelier on condition of anonymity.