Gangtok, Sept. 29: Chief minister Pawan Chamling today announced 50 per cent exemption in all state taxes for those who have Sikkim Subject Certificates and are engaged in the tourism industry.
The exemption would be for annual licence and licence renewal fees, education and environmental cess, service tax and taxes paid to the labour and tourism department every year.
There is no exemption on VAT as it is a central tax.
“The exemption would be given to bonafide Sikkim subject holders who are in the business of travel, hotels and tourism. This is an effort by our government to encourage more local people to take up this profession. The tourism department will soon start working on the matter,” Chamling said today at a programme on World Tourism Day at Chintan Bhawan here.
The Chogyals had issued the Sikkim Subject Certificates to people living in the state during 1961 under the Sikkim Subject Regulation Act of 1961.
According to sources in the district administration, 3.5 lakh people have Sikkim Subject Certificates and almost 40 per cent of the tour operators in the state are certificate holders.
“We welcome the announcement of the chief minister. It is a historic decision as it will not only help the tour operators but also encourage more people to engage themselves in the tourism business,” said president of Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim (TAAS), Satish Bardewa.
A tour operator in Sikkim has to pay anything between Rs 3,000 and 10,000 to register himself with the government.
An official of the tourism department said Sikkim gets around six lakh visitors every year.
The popular tourists spots in the state include Chhangu Lake, Nathu-la and Baba Mandir in east Sikkim and Yumthang, Gurudongmar Lake, Lachen and Lachung in the north district .
The president of Sikkim Hotels and Restaurant Association, Pema Lhamu Lamtha, said: “This (the announcement) is the best gift any hotelier has ever received from the chief minister. This is a great motivation for tourism stakeholders.”
Some operators in Gangtok, however, said the exemption should only be given to tour operators and hoteliers who are members of associations that are recognised by the state government.