Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality in Solukhumbu district has decided to charge entrance fee for foreign tourists visiting the Mt Everest region from next month..
Nima Dorjee Sherpa, the rural municipality chair, said the first assembly had decided to charge each foreigner visiting the Khumbu region entry fee of Rs 2,000 from October 1. He said the assembly had used the constitutional provision decentralising revenue resources at the local level. .
As per the constitution, province and local level governments can collect local taxes including tourism fees, property tax, land revenue, vehicle tax, business tax, house rent tax, entertainment tax, advertisement tax and registration charge for land and house. .
Sherpa said the assembly also asked the government to bar other agencies and NGOs such as Nepal Tourism Board, Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal and Nepal Mountaineering Association from collecting any amount from foreigners in the name of entry to the Khumbu region. More than 35,000 foreign tourists visit Mt Everest region via Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality each year for trekking and mountaineering..
Now, foreigners also have to buy Trekkers' Information Management System cards from either NTB or TAAN paying at least US$ 20 each to enter the Khumbu region. Besides, Sagarmatha National Park also charges each foreigner except SAARC country nationals Rs 3,000 and 13 per cent tax as entry fee to visit the Everest region. SAARC nationals have to pay Rs 1,000 entry fee. .
Sherpa said TAAN, NMA and other NGOs had no right to collect fee from foreigners visiting Khumbu.“The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Department of Tourism, NTB, NMA and TAAN have been informed about the decision,” Sherpa said, adding that his office has not received any official reaction yet..
Stakeholders, however, are divided on the issue of collecting additional fee from foreigners at the local level. .
Most entrepreneurs fear that the rural municipalities could extort foreigners on their own by misinterpreting the constitutional provision of local tax and tourism service fees. According to them, tourists have to travel through a number of rural municipalities to reach their destination. “They shouldn't be charged at every entry point.”.
Ang Dorjee Sherpa, chairman of Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, however, hailed the rural municipality's decision to charge entrance fee. “It is an important step for sustainable development of the region,” Sherpa said. According to him, the government should immediately bar NTB and TAAN from collecting TIMS from foreigners visiting Khumbu. “TIMS has never been utilised for the region,” he commented..
Zimba Jangbu Sherpa, former NMA chairman, however, criticised the rural municipality's unilateral decision to levy entrance fee on foreigners visiting the Mt Everest region. “While it doesn't support stakeholders, it promotes monopoly at the local level,” he said..
Kami Sherpa, managing director, Annapurna Treks also flayed the decision. “The move will destabilise the country's tourism economy,” he commented, demanding that the decision be withdrawn at the earliest.