KATHMANDU, May 21: In a bid to compensate the losses incurred by the country’s tourism industry due to COVID-19, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has recommended to the government to make a policy level intervention. To make up for the losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, NTB has asked the government to shift its focus on domestic tourism by introducing Leave Travel Concession (LTC), under which companies provide travel leave to their employees.
To ensure that the program is utilized well, NTB has proposed the leave be approved only if the applicants produce bills indicating that they have travelled. “Another criterion is the government should levy tax on those whose travel expense exceeds Rs 50,000,” Dhananjay Regmi, chief executive officer at NTB, said, adding people nowadays are fond of traveling and with this kind of program domestic tourism can be encouraged.
The growing tendency of Nepalis to spend on traveling had been quite encouraging for tourism entrepreneurs but the industry remains shut at present due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NTB has assumed movement of 1.7 million people if the program is implemented, resulting in a total business of Rs 53 billion. “We are working on developing packages to increase the internal movement of domestic tourists,” he further added.
The tourism industry of Nepal has been hit hard by the restriction on the movement of people. Entrepreneurs have been laying off their employees with no income to pay from. Fearing a prolonged impact, hotels in Chitwan have announced to remain shut for six months. But it could have a negative impact on the industry. So, in order to keep the industry afloat, NTB has recommended to the government to set up a fund of Rs 20 billion for job retention.
To pass as a beneficiary for such a scheme, one needs to produce the proof of having one’s salary deposited in a bank account for three months or a PAN register certificate or TDS payment proof or SSF confirmation. The fund will be utilized with a clear arrangement of refunding assurance after COVID-19 recovery. Regmi said the government can recover the amount later after the situation normalizes. “People who have benefitted from the fund can pay back to the government in installments,” he added.
The tourism industry employs at least 273,000 people. And with the uncertainty created by the pandemic, the fund the government sets - if it creates such a fund at all- will be enough for six months to a year. “Not all staffers are in need of financial support from the fund which leaves us on a safe side to keep the industry afloat for a certain period,” he told Republica Online, adding, “However, it is upto the government to set up such a fund. The decision of the government will show if it really cares for the sector.”