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Twenty travel agencies to boycott tourism board programmes

Some twenty travel trade organisations decided to boycott Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and its programmes as according to them the board is involved in financial irregularities.

They formed a Joint Tourism Coordination Committee and held a press meet today to disclose that the board has amended its Financial Bylaws giving its chief executive an unlimited power to spend budget.

“The amendment has authorised chief to spend Rs 10 million at a time for tourism promotion inside the country,” they informed, adding that the chief is also authorised to spend $400,000 outside the country apart from unlimted amount through the board’s honorary representatives. It has given the acting chief executive officer full authority to misue the fund.

They have also asked the Tourism Ministry to undo the amendment that was amended behind closed doors allowing the board to make a consignment or tender of goods amounting up to Rs 2.5 million without following Public Procurement Act and Regulation.

According to the Public Procurement Regulation, a tender has to be called to procure goods worth above Rs 1 million. But the amended bylaw has allowed the board to procure goods worth Rs 1 million to Rs 2.5 million through quotation instead of a tender. The amendment has stated that procurement worth more than Rs 2.5 million will only go through tender process.

The government agencies must follow Public Procurement Act and its regulation, they said, adding that the Nepal Tourism Board – that is one of the examples of public-private partnership has totally ignored the private sector and trying to consolidate power with the chief executive officer.

However, there is no chief executive officer in the board since last two-and-a half years after the then chief executive officer Prachanda Man Shrestha retired on October 31, 2011.

They also blamed the officiating chief executive officer Subash Niroula for unitaleteral amendment.

The board – that was extablished to promote tourism in and out of the country – has not been able to promote Nepal despite adequate resources, blamed president of Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) and Ramesh Dhamala.

Asking the government to immediately implement a report on the board’s restructuring submitted by a government-led team, he also urged to appoint a new chief executive officer through a competitive process.

After the government’s permission t double tourism service fee charged to tourists departing from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to Rs 1,000 from March 1, the board’s annual budget is expected to balloon to Rs 1.21 billion. But the tourism promotion has not been encouraging as in the last couple of months the tourists arrival has seen dropping.

The Joint Tourism Coordination Committee also handed over a four-point memorandum to the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Bhim Acharya asking to address their demand.

Representatives of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), Nepal Association of Tours and Travel Agents (NATTA), Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA), PATA Nepal Chapter, Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO), Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA), Expeditions Operators Association Nepal (EOA Nepal), Village Tourism Promotion Forum Nepal (VITOF), Thamel Tourism Development Council (TTDC), Association for Tourism, Pokhara Tourism Development Committee, Association of Kailash Tour Operators, Tourist Bus Association of Nepal, Nepal Tourist Vehicles Association, National Tourism Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (NEAT Nepal),  Nepal National Tourism Entrepreneurs Organisations and UCPN Maoist Tourism Sector Committee jointly asked the minister to immediately take action to promote the tourism sector.

Meanwhile, minister Acharya said he would take necessary action after studying.

The private sector also asked the minister to comprehensive study on tourism promotion plans, programmes and expenditure of past five years.