POKHARA, Aug 13: The provincial government of Gandaki Province has announced that it will integrate all tourism fees into one, following criticisms by trekking agencies and tourism professionals for not doing the needful in removing ambiguity about redundant tourism fees collected by different government entities.
The tourism entrepreneurs had been demanding with the government to roll back the tourism fee imposed by each municipalities and rural municipalities separately to the trekkers.
Chief Minister of the province, Prithvi Subba Gurung, stated that they will implement an integrated tourism fee, ending multiple taxes imposed by different local levels. Speaking at the annual general meeting of western regional chapter of Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, Gurung said: “We should no more create hassles for the trekkers by collecting multiple taxes and we will soon come up with a plan of collecting taxes soon.”
From the beginning of the current fiscal year, the Gandaki Province had imposed US$ 5 in tourism fee for tourists from the SAARC countries and US$ 10 fee for other nationals. Likewise, the local levels have imposed similar taxes on the tourists.
Trekking companies and tourism entrepreneurs in the lake city of Pokhara had long been demanding with the government to lift multiple taxes on tourism.
Gurung however said that it may take some time to develop the modality of integrating different tourism fees in the province.
Tourists who travel to the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) pay tourism fee in the name of Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS), while they are also required to pay additional fee for entering into specified areas in the name of ACAP Permit Fee.
Speaking at the program, President of Annapurna Rural Municipality Yubaraj Kunwar said that the multiple taxes for trekkers only make hassles for them. “These multiple taxes have spread negative message about our region, and it is an urgent need to address the matter,” Kunwar said. “It discourages the trekkers.”
Gurung also disclosed that the ACAP and Mansalsu Conservation Area Projects will also come into the purview of the provincial government after mid-January, after an agreement with Nepal Trust for Nature Conservation will expire by that date. Both these projects are collecting tourism fees from the trekkers and travelers in the conservation area. Besides these, all national parks and conservation areas are under the provincial governments as per the constitution.
First president of TAAN, Hari Bhujel, said the practice of multiple taxation was creating unnecessary hassles for all. “It would hinder the government plan of bringing in two million tourists by 2020,” he said.
As per the tourism entrepreneurs, the country’s tourism sector has been negatively affected by the competition of the provincial and local levels in imposing fees in a way that goes against the principles of taxation and the law of the land. They have said that policy-level and procedural ambiguities have eroded the confidence of the private sector.