LTC scam causing loss of Rs 200 crores: ACCI

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Port Blair, Sep 28 (UNI) The Andaman Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) today alleged that the prevailing scam of Leave Travel Concession (LTC) to Andaman was causing loss of Rs 200 crore to Government and PSUs.

In a letter addressed to the Lt Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, ACCI said that the plan to revive tourism in the tsunami hit Andaman and Nicobar Islands by allowing LTC tourism has backfired and instead of Islanders some high level agents and visiting tourists were earning money.

The Government's scheme, islanders believe, has flooded Andaman with low-value tourists, creating ripple among the tour operators, hoteliers, businessmen and islanders of the remote archipelago.

According to ACCI, the LTC was now being largely misused by a few big travel agents, who were leaving no air-tickets for islanders.

''We need to take corrective action to regulate the entire tourism Industry to stop misuse of LTC facility for personnal benefit,'' ACCI president Mohd H Jadwet said.

Nearly five tour operators in mainland India were offering kick-back to Rs 8,000 per person per ticket out of around Rs 27,000 money paid by government.

''In our estimation, considering 700 LTC travelers per day a total of Rs 56,00,000 is being paid as cash back which if considered over a period of one year works out to whooping Rs 200 crores, which is huge wastage of tax payers' money,'' the ACCI president added.

''LTC beneficiaries visit Andaman maximum for a day and go back hardly spending any money. Moreover these agents are blocking tickets in bulk, preventing up market tourists who are genuinely interested in visiting our Islands. These are the tourists who actually are going to contribute to the economy of these Islands,'' president M Vinod said Association of Tour Operators in Andaman.

''We are not against grant of LTC tourism, we demand to set a time frame for stay of guests coming on LTC so that island tourism industry could earn and survive,'' he added.

''The Andaman Nicobar Administration has claimed to be aware of the situation but is helpless. The administration is looking into the matter,'' The Chief Secretary, Andaman and Nicobar, said.

The tsunami in December 2004, killed about 3,500 people and displacing 40,000. It also hurt tourism, with the number of visitors in 2005 plummeting to 32,000 from an annual average of 100,000.

However, officials said tourist into the Island has surgel to 125,000 in 2006 and was expected to cross 150,000 this year.

UNI

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