In a recent development, the Machhapuchhre Rural Municipality in Kaski has decided to institute a tourism service fee for trekkers exploring the region.
A notification issued by the rural municipality on October 27, 2023, mandates that foreign tourists will be required to pay a fee of 500 Nepalese rupees, while Nepali tourists will be charged 100 rupees.
The decision to implement these fees is in alignment with the outcome of a Village Assembly held in June, as confirmed by the Economic Development Committee Coordinator, Ram Gurung. Gurung stated that the imposition of these tourism fees is consistent with the constitution, Local Government Act, and Financial Act of the Rural Municipality.
"We have enacted these tourism fees in accordance with the Constitution of Nepal, the Local Government Act, and the Financial Act of the Rural Municipality," Gurung explained. "The revenue generated from these fees will be dedicated to enhancing infrastructure along trekking trails and ensuring the safety of tourists."
The Machhapuchhre Rural Municipality is responsible for overseeing renowned trekking routes, including the Mardi Himal Trek, Machhapuchhre Model Trek, Great Machhapuchhre Trek, Ghalekhark Tarahill Trek, and others. Gurung further disclosed that trekkers embarking on these trails will be required to pay these fees starting from the upcoming week.
To facilitate the fee collection process, the rural municipality is preparing to establish collection points at Lupruk, below the low camp of the Mardi Himal trail, and Khumaidanda along the Machhapuchhre trek. Gurung also revealed that personnel would be deployed to both locations to manage and issue receipts.
Additionally, Gurung, who is involved in businesses along the Mardi Himal trail, shared plans for utilizing the revenue generated from these tourism fees. The funds will be allocated for trail improvement, establishing an information center, installing solar lighting along pathways, waste management, implementing a weather information system, and forming a rescue team.
The rural municipality has stated that they will determine the allocation of funds for tourism development after assessing the number of tourists visiting their trails.
This decision effectively triples the fees foreign tourists must pay when visiting the Machhapuchhre Rural Municipality, in addition to the existing fees levied by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). ACAP imposes an entry fee of 1,000 Nepalese rupees on tourists from SAARC countries and 3,000 rupees on non-SAARC foreign tourists.
Furthermore, other organizations, including the Department of Tourism, Nepal Tourism Board, and Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN), also collect fees from foreign tourists through the Trekking Information System (TIMS). For TIMS, tourists from SAARC countries must pay 1,000 rupees, while non-SAARC foreigners are charged 2,000 rupees. Nepalese nationals are exempt from ACAP and TIMS fees.
Dharma Panthi, the Chairman of TAAN Gandaki, expressed concerns regarding the increased financial burden on tourists due to these new fees. He suggested the implementation of a streamlined, one-door system for fee collection instead.
Addressing allegations that the funds collected by other agencies do not benefit the trails, Gurung emphasized that the fees collected by the rural municipality would be made transparent to the public, ensuring accountability in the utilization of these funds.