KATHMANDU, July 31: Despite criticism from local entrepreneurs and tourism committee members, Changunarayan and Mandan Deupur municipalities have been adamant on charging service fee from Nagarkot visitors where even basic facilities such as public toilet have not been built.
Nagarkot, a popular tourist destination on the eastern hills of the Kathmandu Valley, is located between two municipalities of Bhaktapur and Kavre districts -- Changunarayan and Mandan Deupur.
"The service charge is unofficial. The municipalities have not built any infrastructure such as public toilet, benches, resting shades for monsoon, and sign boards on the hiking routes,” said Dhan Lama, secretary of Nagarkot Naldum Tourism Development Committee. "They are just charging for walking on the road."
While foreign tourists have to pay Rs 350, tourists from SAARC countries need to pay Rs 250 which is charged as a service fee by the municipality. Municipality representatives collect the fee from Kalamasi and Bhattedada of Nagarkot.
Tourists from various countries have written unhappy reviews of their experience about paying 'unnecessary service fees' despite poor road conditions and absence of basic infrastructure.
A TripAdvisor user wrote: "Visitors already support the economy through transport, accommodation, restaurants, and memorabilia and tour packages. This is the first time I have ever had to pay to enter a town in any country I've visited, and it's preposterous, taking into account the poor roads to Nagarkot and the state of the town itself. The views are good, of course, but it's still ridiculous to charge people who are visiting Nagarkot."
Caron Dhoju, former secretary of the committee, said that many visitors have been feeling cheated as they don't do anything noteworthy. "The view point tower, which is one of the popular destinations of Nagarkot for both local and foreign tourists, also lacks a public toilet. It is ridiculous when we can't give them answer on the absence of toilet in an area where the footfall is high," he said.
Som Mishra, mayor of Changunarayan Municipality, said that the municipality has been planning to construct public toilets, tourist vehicle park, entertainment park, and an eco-trails by next year. However, he had no idea about the total amount of service fee collected from the tourist till now, although the fee is being collected since the formation of the municipality.
“The local body has been claiming about developing infrastructure," Lama said. "However, it has not shown any result."
It has been six years since condition of the 17-km road from Kamal Binayak to Nagarkot became worse from bad.
"The road construction project that was awarded to Sailung Construction Pvt Ltd in 2013 has not shown any progress till now," said Nabin Gurung, president of the committee.
President of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA), CN Pandey, said that the association has been sending memorandum to related ministries from the last one year to stop the 'illegal' tourist fee.
"The arrival of tourists in this area has reduced by half in the recent years because of the road condition and the service charge," Pandey said.
Dhoju, who is also manager of Stupa Resort at Nagarkot, said that almost half of the bookings have been cancelled for 2020. "Tour operators have started diverting tourists from Nagarkot to somewhere else," he said.