Alappuzha: The backwater tourism here is feeling the pinch of the high Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates that had hit the hospitality industry hard. The tour operators say there was a 30 percent dip in domestic tourist footfalls this season. The houseboat industry was shifted to the five percent slab from 18 and 28 percent after protests, but the new tax regime affected spending. T.G. Raghu of Alappuzha Tourism Development Cooperative Society (ATDC) said domestic tourists formed most of the visitors during the season.
The GST has taken out all tax concessions the state used to offer to promote the industry. As per tourism department data, over 60,000 domestic tourists visited Alappuzha last season. K. Jayavijayan of All Kerala Houseboat Owners’ Association (AKHOA) said they did not increase their tariff after the GST implementation.
"Most of the houseboats except corporate companies here have not registered in the GST tax system," he said. "The tourism in Kerala, especially in Alappuzha, is moving at snail pace for last several months now. We'll discuss this with the finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac," he said.
The houseboat industry is already struggling to stay afloat due to the competition from markets like Sri Lanka which offers all Kerala has. Tour operators say the arrival of international tourists to Kerala continues to plummet for various reasons.
In Alappuzha region alone, some 1,200 houseboats lay anchored on the Vembanad Lake. ‘In fact, the slowdown began with the demonetisation," says Tomi Pulikkattil, a houseboat owner. "The bookings have come down substantially. With GST and demonetisation, the flow of money has stopped, hitting over 5,000 employees.”...