Local govt imposes Rs 2,000 entry fee on foreigners visiting Mt Everest region

KATHMANDU: Foreigners visiting Mt Everest region will have to pay tourism fees to the local government after Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality in Solukhumbu district decided to impose the entrance fee on foreign tourists starting next month.

According to Nima Dorjee Sherpa, newly elected chairman of the Rural Municipality, the first assembly unanimously passed a decision to levy an entry fee of Rs 2,000 on each foreigner visiting Khumbu region.

The decision, which will come into force from October 1, was taken to support local tourism and development activities, he said, adding that the assembly used the constitutional provision to decentralise revenue resources at local level.

“The foreigners will have to pay a fee of Rs 2,000 to the rural municipality office every time they enter Khumbu region from next month,” he added.

As per the new Constitution, province and local level governments can collect local taxes including tourism fees, property tax, land revenue, vehicle tax, business tax, house rent tax, entertainment tax, advertisement tax and registration charge for land and house among others.

Sherpa said that assembly also asked the government to bar other agencies and NGOs like Nepal Tourism Board, Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal and Nepal Mountaineering Association from collecting any amount from foreigners in the name of allowing their entry to Khumbu region.

More than 35,000 foreign tourists visit Mt Everest region via Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality each year for different adventurous activities including trekking, hiking and mountaineering.

Now, foreigners also have to buy Trekkers' Information Management System cards from either NTB or TAAN paying at least US$ 20 (approx Rs 2,000) each to make an entry to Khumbu region for trekking or hiking. Besides, Sagarmatha National Park also charges each foreigner except SAARC country nationals of Rs 3,000 and 13% tax as entry fee to visit Mt Everest region.

SAARC nationals have to pay Rs 1,000 each as the entrance fee.

The Rural Municipality Chairman also claimed that TAAN and NMA like NGOs have no rights to collect fee from foreigners visiting Khumbu for trekking and mountaineering. “Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Department of Tourism, NTB, NMA and TAAN have repeatedly been informed about the decision,” Sherpa said, adding that his office has not received the official reactions yet.

Stakeholders are however divided over a new provision to collect an additional fee from foreigners at local level. Most of the entrepreneurs feared that the rural municipalities could extort foreigners on their own by misinterpreting the constitutional provision of local tax and tourism service fees.

According to them, tourists have to travel a number of rural municipalities to reach their destinations. “They shouldn’t be charged at every entry points.”

Ang Dorjee Sherpa, chairman of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, however, hailed the rural municipality’s decision to impose the entrance fee.

“It is an important step for the sustainable development of the region,” Sherpa, who also hails from Namche Bazaar, said. According to him, the government should immediately bar NTB and TAAN from collecting TIMS from foreigners visiting Khumbu. “TIMS has never been utilised in the region,” he commented.

Zimba Jangbu Sherpa, former NMA chairman, however, criticised the Rural Municipality for making unnecessary and unilateral decision to levy entrance fee on foreigners visiting Mt Everest region.

“It wouldn’t support the stakeholders but only promotes monopoly at local level,” he said.

Kami Sherpa, Managing Director, Annapurna Treks also flayed the decision. “It was only a move to destabilise country’s tourism economy,” he commented, demanding to withdraw the decision at the earliest.