The Member of Parliament from Khamdang-Ramjar, Trashiyangtse, Sonam Dondup Dorji, said the recent resolution by the government to ban the import of vehicle like, Toyota Coaster and Toyota Hiace buses in March 2014, will impeded the growth and quality service in the tourism sector. MP Sonam Dondup Dorji said this will also affect the government’s policy of bringing in 100,000 tourists at end of the current plan.
He also said that tourism sector generates foreign currency earning and contributes towards the creation of employment. He said that it is evident that the tour operators are facing difficulties after the ban on the vehicles, especially during the peak seasons where they need to hire Bhutan Transport buses which are unlawful as per the tourism code of conduct due to its year of purchase.
He said the tourism stakeholders are requesting the government to re-instate the privilege to enable quality services as envisioned by the government.
Following the questions, Finance Minister, Namgay Dorji, said that the tourism sector has immensely benefited the people and the country, which is a reason why tourism has always given importance by the past and the present governments.
The Finance Minister shared that in the 10th FYP, the policy was to bring in 100,000 tourists in the country. The aim now is to bring in 200,000 tourists at the end of the current plan 11th FYP.
Therefore, he said the National Assembly has allotted a budget of Nu 115.76 mn for the tourism sector for the year 2014 and 2015. In addition, the Finance Minster said that the tourist standard and high-end hotels are exempted from paying taxes for a period of 10 years.
Coming to the vehicle import ban, Lyonpo said that since March 2012, due to the economic situation of the country, the government has had to ban import on all vehicles for commercial and private use except for tourism purpose.
Lyonpo added that the tour operators were also exempted from paying taxes on vehicle import for tourism purpose. He said that in 2012, about 24 coaster buses were imported for tourism purpose, in 2013, 19 buses were imported and 2014 saw the import of 17 coaster buses.
Lyonpo said the tourism sector has enjoyed the liberty in importing vehicles till March this year. He said the other business organizations, besides generating high revenue to the government, were prohibited from importing vehicles since 2012.
According to the Finance Minister, such amenities for the tourism sector have been stopped by the government recently, only to revisit and amend the existing policy and revision of taxes for the tourism sector.
The Finance Minister said that it has been only a couple of months since the vehicle import ban for the tourism sector, unlike other industries, organization and business communities that have had to bear the ban for about two years.
However, Lyonpo said that the vehicle import ban would be lifted in July after the revision of taxes.