Govt forms panel to look into travel agents’ demands

Kathmandu, October 1:

The government today agreed to form a three-member commission headed by a joint-secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) to look into the demands raised by tour operators.

Tourism minister Prithvi Subba Gurung, in a meeting with Bikash Gauchan and Dhruva Narayan Shrestha, the members of the action committee of Tours and Travel Agents of Nepal (TAAN), agreed to form the panel, it was informed in a press conference organised today.

Gauchan said: “We got a very positive response from the minister and we are confident that the proposed commission will address all our demands and come out with a comprehensive report.”

“The government has proposed to look into the issues that need to be addressed immediately, that need further discussion and deliberation with the stakeholders and that need cabinet endorsement at the earliest,” Gauchan said.

The travel agents are demanding that agents should get to buy tickets directly from national, domestic or international airlines on cash basis through exchange order system; equal commission for travel agencies at par with ticket stockists; hotels, casinos, NGOs, INGOs, trekking agencies, education consultancies, business houses, manpower agencies and others should strictly go through travel agents; resorts, hotels and airlines should offer services at reasonable rates; and waiver of two per cent commission on dollar account or foreign exchange facilities given to the travel agents. The TAAN panel had given the government an ultimatum of seven days to fulfil the demands and had threatened to agitation.

Besides, the travel agents have also said that except for the registered agents, others like the hotels should not be allowed to arrange tours. They also accused the hotels of evading tax in this regard.

However, after the talks with Minister Gurung, the deadline has been extended to 15 days and the travel agents have threatened that they would even go to the extent of obstructing air service and shutting airlines and agency offices if their demands are not met within 15 days.

“What we should be doing, the hotels and casinos are doing right now. This must be stopped,” Kiran K Aryal, Chaiman of Monal Travels and Tours, told this daily.

The action committee has also asked the government to discourage the practice of ‘holding seats,’ which, according to it, has created an artificial shortage in the country.