Kathmandu, December 22

Nepal Tourism Board has been collecting illegal tax from Nepali travellers who purchase online international air tickets to fly out of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.

According to representatives of international airlines operating flights from TIA, all departing passengers who buy tickets online, are required to pay Rs 1,130 tourism service fee that is included in the air fare, regardless of their nationality.

While introducing TSF in 1999, the cabinet clearly stated that TSF would only be levied on foreigners departing from TIA. TSF was raised from Rs 200 to Rs 500 in 2005 and to Rs 1,000 (excluding VAT) in 2014.

“The government policy to include TSF in each air ticket has ultimately victimised Nepali travellers who choose to buy tickets online,” a member of the Airlines Operators’ Committee admitted.

According to him, none of the world airlines can make a distinct payment system for individual nationalities on their web portals to sell online tickets. “It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the rights of their citizens,” he added.

AOC, an umbrella organisation of the international air carriers operating in Nepal, maintains that more than 10 per cent of the total passengers who purchase online tickets are Nepalis. Records show that on average 60 per cent of the 6,000-8,000 passengers who fly out of TIA daily have Nepali passport.

TSF is being deposited in NTB’s account.

Neither the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation nor the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has taken the matter seriously, while the NTB has en collecting a hefty sum from Nepali passengers in the name of tourism promotion.

Officials in CAAN, who authorised the airlines to include all taxes in air tickets, said it was the responsibility of NTB and the ministry to properly execute the government decision on TSF. The illegally levied fee compounded over the years runs into billions, a CAAN executive told THT.

Very few travellers are aware of this and are willing to visit the airline offices for a refund that often takes weeks. Saying that Nepalis were not liable to pay TSF, ministry’s Joint Secretary Suresh Acharya termed NTB’s act daylight robbery.

“It’s totally unfair for Nepali travellers to pay TSF while NTB officials embark on fruitless foreign junkets spending the taxpayers money in the name of tourism promotion,” added Acharya, who is also CAAN’s board of director. “TSF policy needs an urgent review,” he added.

NTB Chief Executive Officer Deepak Raj Joshi, however, claimed that NTB only levied TSF on foreigners departing from TIA. “We’ll review the mechanism soon as International airlines shouldn’t be allowed to charge TSF from Nepali passengers,” he added.