Rural municipality starts collecting tourism fee in Everest regionKhumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality has started charging a tourism fee from foreign trekkers despite objections from travel trade entrepreneurs.
Kumbha Raj Rai
Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality has started charging a tourism fee from foreign trekkers despite objections from travel trade entrepreneurs.
The municipality has been collecting Rs2,000 from each foreign visitor since Sunday. The collection on Sunday and Monday totalled Rs924,000 from 462 tourists, according to the municipality. Including the latest tourism fee, adventure seekers entering the Everest region now have to pay three separate types of charges — tourism fee, Trekkers Information Management Systems (TIMS) fee and Sagarmatha National Park entry fee.
Foreign tourists are required to obtain a TIMS card by paying a fee ranging from $10 to $20 per person. For visitors from Saarc countries, the TIMS card fee is Rs300 per person for group trekkers, and Rs600 per person for individual trekkers.
The Nepal Tourism Board and Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (Taan) each receive 30 percent of the total amount collected from the issuance of TIMS cards. Another 30 percent goes into their joint fund. The rest of the money is deposited into the workers’ welfare fund.
Likewise, Sagarmatha National Park charges Rs3,390 as entry fee from foreign trekkers and Rs1,700 from Saarc nationals. A foreigner who wishes to walk in the mountains in the Everest region will now have to pay more than Rs7,000.
Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality has proposed scrapping TIMS and park entry fees, but the decision is yet to be implemented. “We have decided to collect the tourism fee as per the prevalent law of local governance,” said Nim Dorji Sherpa, chairman of Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality. He added that the concerned authorities had failed to carry out development activities in the Khumbu region with the funds collected as TIMS fee.
Sherpa has suspected that financial irregularities have occurred with regard to the TIMS fee. The Department of Tourism has not reacted to the rural municipality’s decision. “As Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality has decided to collect the tourism fee under the prevalent law of local governance, we cannot immediately comment on it,” said Dinesh Bhattarai, director general of the department. “We are discussing the issue with the government internally.”
Travel trade entrepreneurs have criticized the rural municipality’s move. “It’s not rational for each rural municipality to collect fees. There could be several rural municipalities on a trekking route, and a trekker will have to pay money at each one of them,” said Lila Baldab Dahal, treasurer of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (Taan). “We have been discussing the issue with the government.” More than 35,000 trekkers visit the Everest region annually.