Proprietor Maranatha Hotel, Owerri, Dr. Etofolam Osuji, a retired accountant, has said the Imo State government has been charging hoteliers in Owerri, the state capital outrageous taxes, saying inconsistent taxes are not good for business.
Osuji, who spoke during a visit by tourism reporters facilitated by Southeast Zone Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) Vice President, Ngozi Ngoka, urged the state government to partner hoteliers in the state to grow tourism business.
“The government should remove taskforce from us as we pay our taxes. The levies they place on hoteliers are too much. But these monies should come in a structured manner. I want a situation where we will partner government in developing the state in such a way that everyone will benefit. I want a situation where unemployed youths are fully engaged. We need to partner government to make sure that we drive the vision for them.
“The charges are arbitrary. Due to the high taxation, you are not able to break even” he added.
As a stakeholder to the growth of southeast tourism, Osuji believed that Imo State will be ranked number one best leisure place in Nigeria if government gives hoteliers a listening ear.
“In the area of tourism, if the parameters are well set it means that this state will be ranked number one as the best in leisure destination in Nigeria. It implies that every year you evaluate yourself to find out if you are achieving what you set out to achieve.
“If the answer is that you are not achieving it, you find the challenge within that structure, work on those challenges and bring in stakeholders in the sector who will help to change things. The more staff you recruit the better you address the unemployment opportunities. I personally want to partner government.” he added.
According to Managing Director Villa Garden Hotel, Owerri Mr. Emmanuel Nwachukwu tax system in Imo State is on the high side and arbitrarily allocated.
“We have tried to partner government through the hoteliers’ association so that they can harmonise this tax to favour us because there is high cost of maintenance. There is need to put in place the necessary infrastructure so that we can promote tourism in the state. It has been very difficult and unable to break even. Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) has not been helpful and we spend so much in the purchase of diesel. So, we wonder why they should be tasking us high,” he queried. He continued: ‘Therefore the state government should harmonize this tax and bring it to the barest minimum and a result it will attract a lot of people who are willing to invest in the state. Government has not responded positively. We have been trying to have meeting with them. But, it has not been forthcoming. They tell us that they are conducting the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in order to generate revenue.”
Ngoka said appropriate and a just tax system would reduce over-head for hotel owners and make accommodation cheaper. She said such tax system will bring in more tourists to the state. “Hotel tax in Imo is not coordinated. How can the operators plan over-head in such a situation? If you plan that your room will be ten thousand naira and all taxes come up and at the end of the day you are losing money, it doesn’t make sense.
So, Imo state government needs to harness whatever tax that it wants to charge. They should stop arbitrary taxation. They should try and coordinate whatever it is they are doing,” she added.
On the need for a tourism board in the state, she said: “In my view, every state should have a state tourism board with proper regulated taxes so that the operators will know what they are in for earlier for adequate planning. The state should try to make business environment conducive just like the federal government is trying to do.”