Travel agencies in Tajikistan are requesting an explanation of the implementation mechanism of the law, which requires tourists to pay a state duty of a dollar per each day of stay.
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On April 26, the Parliament of Tajikistan adopted amendments to the Law “On Other Mandatory Payments to the Budget”. According to the amendments, all tourists, including Tajik citizens traveling abroad on tours, must pay an additional fee of $1 per each day of stay in the country.
This measure was implemented to replenish the state budget, as Finance Minister Faiziddin Kahhorzoda said at a meeting of the Parliament.
“The project was developed within the framework of implementation of the protocol of the government meeting on January 21 on the determining the additional sources of state budget replenishment”, the Minister said.
Then, the Finance Minister announced that they determined the amount of tourist duties, both for foreign tourists arriving in the country and for Tajik tourists traveling abroad via tourism agencies. Pilgrims traveling to Mecca to perform Hajj (one of the 5 pillars of Islam, mandatory for Muslims) will also pay the duties.
Amendments to the law have been adopted, but it is still unclear how the authorities intend to collect this type of duties.
The Law Is Adopted, but the Implementation Mechanism Is Not Developed
Saidjafar Ismonzoda, deputy speaker of the Parliament, said that the adoption of these amendments would contribute to the development of the country’s economy and help raising public sector wages.
“Our budget today needs an additional source base. Increasing the salaries for teachers, retirees and law enforcement officers is a must”, said the deputy.
Saidjafar Ismonzoda also clarified that, according to the amendments, fees will be charged only from tourists who travel via travel companies. This amount will be included in the hotel room payment. However, tourists who enter the country and live in relatives’ houses will not be charged.
“Tourists will pay this money through a travel company that receives guests, since hotels pay taxes to the budget. The cost will be added to the hotel room rate. If a tourist comes to live in his relatives’ house, then it makes no sense”, he said.
Saidjafar Ismonzoda noted that only after the law implementation, it will become clear how to levy taxes on tourists.
“At present, the amendments have been adopted, but the method and time period of their implementation will be determined by the government and relevant bodies”, the deputy explained.
How Will the New Amendments Affect the Tourism Industry?
Tajik economist Abdurakib Kodirov considers these measures to be timely, targeted and useful. According to him, the additional money in the state budget will positively affect the development of tourism infrastructure.
“Given the lack of financial resources, I believe that this is a timely, targeted and useful approach. Funds collected from the tourists’ fees will allow developing the tourism infrastructure”, Kodirov says.
According to him, the private sector in Tajikistan now does not have the financial resources to create a tourist infrastructure and the adoption of this law will become an additional source of funding.
“To increase the tourism potential in each state, naturally, both public and private investments are required. The private sector of Tajikistan does not have the financial resources to create the necessary tourist infrastructure. Accordingly, the introduction of a fee of $1 per tourist will allow collecting such funds and will add an additional source for tourism development in Tajikistan”, he added.
Travel Agencies: The Law Must Be Rationalized
The amendments caused concern for private travel companies because businessmen do not yet understand how to explain their customers the feasibility of introducing additional fees.
Companies believe that this initiative may be useful for maintaining the state budget, but the mechanism for implementing the law is unclear, which raises questions.
Director of the Tourism Development Center, Maruf Nodiri, does not understand how travel agencies should explain to tourists the reasons to pay an additional one dollar per day.
“Modules for charging additional fees should be worked out. It is necessary not only to adopt the law, but also to think over the methods and mechanisms for its implementation. This procedure raises many questions that need to be clarified. For example, when a tourist asks a question about what he additionally pays for,” Nodiri said in an interview with CABAR.asia.
In addition, travel companies do not understand how to collect fees from those who come to the country without help from travel agencies. According to businessmen, the law must be rationalized.
“What should we do in cases when tourists travel through travel companies a couple of times, and then they want to enter or leave without their participation? How will they pay? Therefore, no need to rush this issue, first, it is necessary to check how it works, and then adopt the necessary law”, says Nodiri.
Saodat Rizozod, Director of the “Saodat-sair” travel company, believes that the adoption of these amendments has both positive and negative sides. According to her, tourists need to be explained why additional fees are collected from them.
“It seems that for foreigners one dollar is worth nothing, however, it should be justified. For example, in Dubai hotels, when our citizens check in, they are charged a tax of $3. But, at the same time, they are immediately explained why this money must be paid. There is nothing wrong with these fees, but there must be well-reasoned explanations about what these funds are collected for”, Rizozoda told CABAR.asia.Meanwhile, “Zigan-Tour” travel company’s representative believes that the arrival of tourists with limited financial resources may be reduced due to this initiative.
Such experience is the first in the tourism industry of Tajikistan.
The parliament noted that veterans of the Great Patriotic War, participants of the recovery from the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, people with disabilities of the first and second groups, children under 16 and diplomats will be exempted from duties.
According to the parliament, currently there are 145 companies operating in the tourism market of Tajikistan. Last year, over a million foreign tourists visited Tajikistan.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.