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Hotels to get grade, hike in permit fee

- Hoteliers say Darjeeling municipality move unfair

Darjeeling, Jan. 16: The Darjeeling municipality has categorised hotels into four grades and decided to levy trade licence renewal fees accordingly, a move which has not gone down well with hoteliers, though their main association has not opposed the move.

Several hoteliers The Telegraph spoke to were unhappy with the civic body’s decision as they felt that their business was the only one being targeted by the civic body.

“We are not against a hike in the licence fee. But we are unhappy with the mindset of targeting only hotels for revenue collection. If tourists come to Darjeeling, it does not mean that only hotels are earning. Every businessman in the hills benefits from the tourist flow and it is wrong to target only hotels,” a hotelier said on condition of anonymity.

Sukbahadur Biswakarma, the vice-chairman of the municipality today, said: “We have decided to categorise the hotels in grades A, B, C and D. Hotels falling under grade A will have to pay an annual tax of Rs 2,500 to retain the trade licence. Hotels graded B, C and D will have to pay Rs 2,000, Rs 1,800 and Rs 1,500, respectively.”

According to the municipality, nine hotels are in grade A, 16 in grade B, 45 in C and 127 hotels have been placed in grade D. The hotels have been graded according to room tariffs, amenities, general ambience and location.

Till now, all hotels in Darjeeling have been paying Rs 1,500 a year to renew their trade licence.

The hotels will have to pay the revised amounts as and when their trade licences are renewed.

Sources said the civic body had segmented 197 hotels, according to the details given by the Janmukti Hotel Owners’ Association, a wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that runs the municipality.

“The other hotels are probably not members of the association and hence, their names have not been submitted. We will, however, conduct an independent survey and categorise all hotels in the days to come,” Biswakarma said.

Officially, the grading and the hike in the annual renewal fees have the backing of the association.

“We had submitted the list following which the hotels have been graded. We have no problem with the increase in the trade licence renewal fee as the municipality has promised to improve the civic services in town,” said Sangay Tshering, the president of the association.

The conservancy department also has plans to charge a fee from the hotels for waste disposal.

“It is not just the hotels but even hardware merchants and vegetable vendors who add to the garbage in Darjeeling,” said a hotelier.

Another hotelier said: “For all other businesses, like restaurants, jewellery shops and medical stores, there is an amount fixed for the renewal of trade licence, irrespective of their size and revenue. We fail to understand why only hotels have been graded.”

Biswakarma said the municipality would grade grocery shops later.