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The Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) and the tour operators’ dispute over the terms of the tour operations duty-free scheme continues.
The disagreement began following the seizure of about 20 four-wheel drive vehicles imported by tour operators using the duty-free incentive scheme.
The authority accused the operators of using the vehicles for other purposes, like car rentals, which is against the terms of the duty-free scheme. The operators argued that they followed the rules stated in the Country’s tourism regulations.
The operators made their claims through their association, the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association (ETOA), to the PM’s office and to Melaku Fenta, director of ERCA, in September of this year.
According to our sources, two weeks ago, the ERCA intelligence unit called some of the tour company owners to explain the illegal activities that ERCA is accusing them of.
“We have already referred the case to the authority and other relevant government offices. Due to this fact, the authority intelligence office does not have a right to call the company owners until the case gets a final resolution,” the operators told Capital.
The tour operators made their claims to the Authority based on the definition of the Country’s tourism law. According to regulations, they have the right to provide transportation services to visitors and tourists who are in the country for 24 hours up to less than one year, which is the standard definition of a tourist, they allege.
“Based on the definition of a tourist, researchers, explorers, business visitors and others are also considered tourists, but ERCA does not accept that,” an expert on the sector explained.
“For instance, Adika Tour and Travel, one of the tour operators accused by ERCA, has put its vehicles at the disposal of the US Embassy to provide service to the visitors that come to Ethiopia under the Embassy’s auspices and travel to various places in the country, but the authority is considering this as providing rental services,” the expert said.“But based on the definition of tourism, this is definitely part of the tourism business,” the expert argued.
According to our sources, ERCA has parked the seized vehicles at its warehouse in Kality and the ERCA head office, in Addis Ababa as well as its branch offices in the cities of Mekele and Dire Dawa. The companies accused by ERCA are close to 20. Out of these, ERCA has ordered 5 companies to pay duties for the vehicles that they have imported under the duty-free scheme.