Tourism industry stalwarts appointed to the ministry’s advisory board urged that state plans to reintroduce taxes like Business Turnover Tax (BTT) in place of Value Added Tax (VAT) be dropped at the next budget highlighting that a one year grace period is needed prior for its implementation, a media release issued by the Tourism Ministry stated.
At the first meeting of the Tourism Advisory Board held on Wednesday at the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious affairs with Minister Jonh Amaratunga participating, the board’s Chairman Harry Jayawardene noted that any tax increase should become effective after a one year grace period.
He explained that should these taxes be introduced it could hamper revenues as rooms have already been sold for next year as well.
In this respect he said they required consistent policies and red tape kept to a minimum and pointed out that due to state bureaucracy it would take months to get approvals for a hotel project in Sri Lanka whereas in Oman it would take only five days.
Minister Amaratunga addressing the advisory board said the industry should plan to attract increasing number of tourists from countries like Russia and those unable to visit most other destinations in the Middle East that are currently in turmoil.
The board is tasked with three main duties: advice the Minister and the institutions under the Ministry of Tourism Development on any matter connected to the development of travel and tourism; charter the future course of the industry; and respond to any matter that is put to the committee by the Minister.
Those present at the inaugural meeting were Harry Jayawardena, Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa, Chairman Tourism Development Authority and Acting Chairman of the Tourism Promotions Bureau Paddy Withana, Advisor to the Ministry Felix Rodrigo, Merril J. Fernando, Ajith Gunawardena, Amal Cabraal, Dammika Perera, Udaya Nanayakkara, Sunil Dissanayake, Ms. Shiromal Cooray, Ashroff Omar, Abbas Esufally, Sanjiv Gardiner and Suren Ratwatte. Advisor to the Ministry of Policy Planning, Dinesh Weerakkody also attended the meeting, the release stated.