By Jeevananda S. Kaviratne
The owners of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority-approved tourist hotels and guesthouses operating in Hikkaduwa recently convened a meeting to discuss the issue of sudden increase of the annual liquor licence fee almost by 100 percent to Rs.500,000.
These hoteliers and guesthouse owners had already paid the annual liquor licence fee for the year 2015, an amount of Rs.275,000.
Making the things worse, Hikkaduwa Divisional Secretary had sent a letter dated March 25, 2015 to all the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority-approved hoteliers and guesthouse owners in Hikkaduwa requesting to pay the latest licence fee, giving a deadline of three days.
The said letter sent by the Hikkaduwa Divisional Secretary had reached the hoteliers only on March 31, 2015, the hoteliers complained.
These hoteliers said that it was impossible for them to pay such a large amount of money within a matter of few days.
The tourist hotel and guesthouse owners vehemently opposed the deadline and threatened to close down the liquor bars in their hotels, if reasonable action was not taken immediately by the relevant authorities to repeal the newly imposed unreasonable liquor licence fee.
Hikkaduwa Tourist Hoteliers’ Association Chairman and Colombo Hoteliers’ Association Vice Chairman Siri Gunawardena said that taking a decision of this nature without consulting the hoteliers was both unfair and undemocratic.
He said this latest decision of the Finance Ministry and other relevant authorities would have unhealthy outcomes, affecting every aspect of the tourism industry across the country.
Hikkaduwa Middle-Scale Tourist Hoteliers’ Association Chairman Harischandra de Silva said if immediate action was not taken by the authorities to reduce the annual liquor licence fee back to the previous, which the hoteliers had already paid for the year 2015, the only alternative was to refrain from obtaining a liquor licence and to close down the liquor bars in their hotels.
Just like numerous other unauthorised hoteliers and guesthouses operating in Hikkaduwa offering liquor to foreigners without a licence, he said that there was a very strong tendency even for the authorised hoteliers and guesthouses resorting to illegal selling of liquor without obtaining an annual license fee.
He said liquor was freely available everywhere in Hikkaduwa and these unauthorised liquor outlets had already posed a great threat for the survival of authorised tourist hotels and guesthouses.