KATHMANDU, May 18: The famous Kailash Yatra (pilgrimage by Hindus to Mt Kailash and Mansarovar Lake in Tibet), which has been delayed this season after the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government in China made it mandatory for the pilgrims to pay the tour package fees through the banking channel, is set to start this week.
The payment issue was resolved after the pilgrims, mostly Indian and Nepali, started paying the tour fees through the banking system. Nepal's central bank has also eased the process of paying the fees of Kailash tour which has to be made in US dollars.
President of the Association of Kailash Tour Operators Nepal (AKTON) Narayan Pokharel said Nepali tour operators will start Kailash tours this week as the Indian clients have started paying the fees through Indian banks. “While many Indian pilgrims visiting Kailash via Nepal pay the tour fees to the Tibetan government through their own banking channel, Nepal's central bank has also eased the process of paying the tour fees in US dollars,” he said.
Pokharel said the first batch of pilgrims this year from both India and Nepal are leaving for Kailash Yatra on Monday. Besides Nepali pilgrims, over 20,000 Indian pilgrims visit Kailash each year between May and September with the help of Nepali tour operators.
Nepali tour operators take the pilgrims to either Rasuwagadhi or Hilsa border point and then sub-contract the remaining portion of the tour to Tibetan tour operators. Each pilgrim on average pays between US$ 1500 and 2500 to Nepali tour operators for the Kailash Yatra but nearly two-thirds of this fee is taken by the Tibetan tour operators.
Until last year, the dollar transaction was not an issue for Nepali tour operators, as the TAR government had not made it mandatory to transact the entire cost of the tour through banking channels in US dollars. Until last year, Indian pilgrims would pay the fees to the Nepali operators and the latter would hand pay the Tibetan operators.