Discussions Underway to Scrap Tariffs on Imported Tour Buses

Discussions Underway to Scrap  Tariffs on Imported Tour BusesDiscussions Underway to Scrap  Tariffs on Imported Tour Buses

Industry insiders are hoping to overturn the rejection by the government of a key proposal to help renovate Iran’s fleet of tour buses by hashing it out with the Iran Customs Administration.

Last month, a proposal made in late 2014 by Iran’s tourism authority to reduce the tariff on imported tour buses for renovating the aging fleet of substandard coaches was rejected by the Cabinet.

Officials at the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, who were opposed to the scheme from the outset, argued that the move would undermine Iranian automakers, which they claimed are capable of rising to the challenge and meeting the land transport needs of the fledgling tourism sector.

In the proposal, Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization requested tariffs to be removed from only 1,000 quality vehicles, including tour buses.

Now, Ebrahim Pourfaraj, president of the Iranian Tour Operators’ Society, says he along with ICHHTO chief, Masoud Soltanifar, have had discussions with the top brass at the customs administration to find a way to overturn the veto.

Of course, the customs authority is not in a position to reverse the government’s decision, “but we hope to be able to revise our initial proposal with help customs officials make a more appealing request to the government,” Pourfaraj told ISNA.

The ministry’s opposition to the scheme made headlines last month and drew the ire of the proposal’s advocates.

“The Industries Ministry flat out rejected our request,” Soltanifar said following the rejection of his organization’s request, adding that tour buses can still be imported but with the present customs duties “it would be an expensive endeavor”.

According to ISNA, the ministry’s reasons for rejecting ICHHTO’s request were twofold: First, to help domestic carmakers by compelling tour companies to buy domestically-made buses; and second, to fill government coffers by imposing high customs charges.

“They [the ministry officials] argue that reducing customs tariffs for imported buses will undermine domestic automakers,” Soltanifar said. “They claim that we have the ability to manufacture the buses inside the country.”

This is while some, including Pourfaraj, say Iranian-made buses fail to meet international standards.

“They mount the body of a minibus onto a chassis made for a sedan, so how can you call that a standard vehicle?” he complained.

Supporters of the scheme say both inter- and intra-city tour buses must be renovated and brought up to standard.

The ICHHTO has reportedly put in a request for 500 vans, 300 minibuses, 150 off-road vehicles and 50 buses. The ministry has promised that Iranian carmakers will be able to provide ICHHTO with all the 1,000 vehicles they have requested by September.

However, observers say at least 2,000 vehicles are needed to fully renovate the country’s aging fleet of tour vehicles.