TAAN accuses Nepal Tourism Board of misusing trekker fees
10th Nov, 2016 | Tourism Mail Crew
KATHMANDU: The Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (Taan) has charged the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) of misusing fees collected from foreign trekkers, and threatened to explore its options if the finances were not made transparent.
Foreign tourists who wish to walk in the mountains are required to obtain a Trekkers Information Management Systems (TIMS) card by paying a fee ranging from $10 to $20 per person.
Taan said in a statement that an emergency meeting of its executive committee held on Monday had decided to take a stern step if the NTB did not change its ways and become serious about managing the TIMS card properly and transparently.
“We have decided to consult our legal advisors whether Taan can introduce its own trekkers’ information system,” said Karna Bahadur Lama, general secretary of the umbrella body of trekking agencies in Nepal.
“We have requested the NTB time and again to provide details of the funds collected from the distribution of TIMS cards, but it has not responded to our calls.”
Besides failing to maintain financial transparency, the board has not been able to distribute the cards in a timely manner, Taan said. “It is also hesitant to allocate a portion of the money collected from TIMS cards to the workers’ welfare fund,” he said.
Taan claimed that they were also not aware about the number of TIMS cards that NTB issues annually. According to the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, 114,000 trekkers visited the area in 2013-14, but NTB statistics show that only 60,000 TIMS cards were issued.
“We are not aware about how many cards are printed and issued annually as there is no proper monitoring mechanism to oversee their distribution,” said Lama.
“We have asked NTB several times to launch an online service too, but it has been ignoring our requests. We have not received details about the revenue collected in the last three years.”
Many cards have no serial numbers or holograms on them. “This gives plenty of room to suspect that the money collected from tourists has been misused.”
The government collects Rs160-170 million from TIMS cards annually. It is mandatory for foreigners to obtain a TIMS card before visiting any trekking area in the country.
Mountaineers with climbing permits issued by the Department of Tourismand the Nepal Mountaineering Association are required to obtain yellow cards by paying Rs2,000.
Similarly, group trekkers and FITs from Saarc countries are charged Rs300 and Rs600 respectively.
The NTB and Taan each receive 30 percent of the total funds collected from TIMS cards. Another 30 percent goes into their joint fund. The rest of the money is deposited into the workers’ welfare fund.
Taan said that it had also decided to draw the attention of the parliamentary International Relations and Labour Committee and file a right to information application with the National Information Commission to obtain details of the funds collected. TKP