On January 2, 2018, a delegation of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) representatives held meeting with Mr. Govinda Gajurel, the Member Secretary of National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC).
The TAAN delegation, which was headed by the President Nava Raj Dahal had a brief introduction. Drawing the latter’s attention towards different problems that TAAN’s member agencies are facing, President Dahal handed over a two – point memorandum to the Member Secretary Gajurel.
Discussion during the meeting included rules pertaining to fee collection, as defined in the Protected Area Management Regulation BS 2053 (in Schedule 1), 13% VAT (Value Added Tax) compliance attached to the existing fee from December 23, 2017 at Annapurna, Manaslu and Gaurishankar Conservation Area. The delegation stated the problem faced by the member companies due to 13% VAT consent that was implemented without notifying them. As all the entire tourism business houses sell their package prior excluding 13% VAT.
The delegation requested NTNC to hold up or repeal 13% VAT verdict, if not Nepalese tourism will have a negative impact in market, that probably will make Nepal difficult to compete with other neighboring countries like India, Malaysia, Singapore, Bhutan and others where VAT is not charged for touristic region” they added.
Similarly, TAAN emphasized on opening hours of National Park & Conservation entry fee counter during Saturday and other public holidays.
Likewise, the delegation underlined upon the charges of double entry fees to trekkers. They also highlighted upon the trekkers of Annapurna Circuit who suffers from High Altitude Sickness and snowfall, cannot trek through Thorong La Pass and change their destination to Poon Hill or any other places of Annapurna Region. So, the delegation requested to give entry for the trekkers from the same ACAP Permit.
Gopal Shrestha, TAAN Executive Member said that information regarding VAT must be circulated in a systematic way which will facilitate trekking business houses to keep an update in their websites. He voiced over the problem faced by trekking companies to make permit during season time while there is more queue. So, he appealed Mr. Govinda to look after the provision for issuing urgent permits.
Suk Bahadur Lama, TAAN Executive Member requested to introduce online permit payment system that will help in systematic and proper management.
Similarly, Baburam Gurung TAAN Executive Member articulated about limited capacity of hotels and high charges for foods at Annapurna Base Camp. So, he requested if possible more hotels must be constructed according to the flow of tourist.
Deepak Kumar, Executive Director of NTNC also agreed upon limited capacity and said the territory being government’s property, permission was not granted to build hotels. He assured that hotels will be constructed in near future and increase the capacity of rooms along with the standardized price.
Member Secretary Gajurel showed very positive response towards the delegation. Talking about immediate implementation of 13% VAT compliance, he responded as Office of Auditor General advanced almost 5 crore rupees to NTNC. “As a result, we had no option rather implementing 13% VAT”.
“ We will inform the staffs of National Park & Conservation entry fee counter about the opening hours on Saturday and public holidays” he assured. He said that there will be an increment of conservation permit as national park permit has increased from Rs. 2000- 3000. But, he ensured TAAN that it will not increase immediately.
He said they will have an internal discussion about double entry fee system and definitely implement it very soon. Saying about the capacity build up, CAMC are provided technical advice by NTNC for expanding infrastructures according the flow of tourist.
Along with President Dahal, Senior Vice- President Khum Bahadur Subedi, Treasurer Ram Krishna Timalsina, Executive members Mahesh Budha Magar, Ritu Gyamdan (Tamang), Suk Bahadur Lama, Gopal Shrestha, Surya Bhetwal, Rajan Kapri and Baburam Gurung as well as TAAN CEO Tek Bahadur Mahat, Media Officer Subina Manandhar and Photographer Pemba Sherpa were also present in the delegation.
NTNC Executive Director Deepak Kumar Singh, Finance officer Gyanendra Shah, Senior Finance officer Ramesh Kumar Singh and Administration officer Santa Bahadur Shrestha were also present at the meeting.