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New Year revelry: Puducherry in upbeat mood despite Omicron threat

Express News Service

PUDUCHERRY: The quaint coastal town of Puducherry with its French heritage charm is gearing up for New year revelry after the government permitted the celebrations by relaxing lockdown norms but with adherence to covid safety guidelines.

The Beach road is once again expected to see a large congregation as in previous years to usher in the New Year. The number of  New Year parties is going to be higher this year as several hotels which have not organised parties in the last three years are once again planning to organise the parties as well as other open-air events, according to Anand, an Event publicity organiser. 

The Tourism department is leasing out five venues for hosting open events which include Old Port premises, Paradise Island, Chunamber boat House, Murungapakkam Arts, and Craft Village, and Sea Gulls restaurant to ring in the New Year, Puducherry Tourism Minister K Lakshminarayanan told TNIE. Besides some Beach resorts like Hotel Ashok and others, Beach Marina at Dubrayanpet is also preparing to host such parties. 

“We are preparing to organise outdoor parties with a lot of amenities ”, said Kamaraj of Beach Marina. Several private spaces are also being leased out for hosting New year celebrations, said G Thanigachalam, General Secretary of Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce has leased out its property to a private party for hosting New year events, he said.

The enthusiasm is high as the Hospitality industry has borne the brunt of Covid-19 and is looking for avenues to earn.  The government which is facing a severe financial crunch is also hoping to earn some good revenue, as the revenue collections are the highest at the time of the year (December -Jan). With restrictions levied on open-air and beach gatherings for  New Year in the neighbouring states, people are expected to descend in Puducherry, said a Hotelier. The bookings have begun ever since Puducherry government had announced lockdown relaxations for Christmas and New year, he said.

At the same time, the hospitality industry wants the government to lower the taxes levied on organising such events. The Municipalities have been levying 25 percent Entertainment Tax (ET) on the Entry fee (which is 25 percent of the price of the ticket). In addition, organizers have to pay a security deposit which is 25 percent of the entry fee, a municipal license fee of Rs 5000, Excise Special license fee of  Rs 10,000 for serving liquor. Then there is 28 percent GST on the entry fee and Excise duty and Additional Excise duty on liquor sales charged by the government. After spending for organizing entertainment programe, food, liquor, lighting, stage, transportation, and manpower, the high taxes have put strains on the business and hence the government should consider reducing it, said G Anandraj, Treasurer of Hotel Association of Puducherry.

However, with the threat of the Omicron variant, there is apprehension, particularly among the residents. The government is planning to issue SOP for strict compliance during the celebrations and orders will be issued in this regard, sources said.

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