Trekkers from SAARC to pay less
Trekkers from South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries can now trek at a revised trekking charge that is about 72 per cent lower than current trekking charge.
Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) along with Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) has included a new point in its agreement to reduce its Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) card rate by 71.43 per cent for trekkers from SAARC nations.
Currently, trekkers from SAARC countries have to pay
Rs 700, while the new trekking charge will be Rs 200 per trekker. Whereas, the TIMS card rate for trekkers from countries other than SAARC region is still the same –– $ 10 for an individual TIMS card and $ 20 for group trekking.
“NTB agreed to our suggestion to revise the trekking charge for SAARC trekkers during the revision of our Trekking Information Management
System agreement,” said chief
executive officer at TAAN
NTB and TAAN are preparing to review the TIMS agreement that was signed in 2010. However, NTB has disagreed to reduce the tourism service charge in the new agreement.
According to NTB, the service charge can be increased but there is no provision to reduce it. “The board has also agreed to most of our suggestions and we are looking forward to signing the revised memorandum of understanding with NTB at the earliest,” said Pant. According to TAAN, there are a number of issues relating to TIMS which need to be changed.
TIMS is a system developed by TAAN, and NTB is the authorised organisation for collecting tax through it. However, the involvement of other players in distributing TIMS card and collecting tax has created unnecessary problems.
“We are also working on to avoid the problems facing TIMS,” he said. According to NTB, it has, till date, collected about Rs 90 million through TIMS card. TAAN has also developed a software to ensure the security of tourists and check illegal operations, but the NTB management has to first study the system and it needs to be confirmed by the board before it can come into operation. The software will make sure that tourists at different trekking routes are safe.
Under the software, a trekker has to fill up a form with all the personal details and programmes throughout the stay, and the information will be recorded in the TIMS software. If any trekker goes missing, the software will help in tracing the whereabouts of missing trekker.
Effective from September 1, the government has also made a porter or a guide compulsory for individual trekkers. “It is now mandatory for an individual trekker to take a licensed trekking guide,” said Pant.
According to TAAN, a licensed individual trekking guide or porter can charge $ 15 per day at maximum. More than 90 per cent trekkers who go missing during treks are individual trekkers and there is no information about the whereabouts of those trekkers due to the lack of a monitoring mechanism, stated TAAN.
Among the total tourist arrivals, about 35 per cent arrive for trekking. During 2011–2012, the trekking business earned a total foreign currency of $ 50 million, stated TAAN.