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Nepal makes guide mandatory for solo trekkers from April 1

Come April 1, solo or free independent trekkers have to mandatorily hire a guide or a porter before setting off to Nepal’s mountains, reports The Kathmandu Post.

Nepal Tourism Board, the country’s national tourism promotion body, which includes trekking and mountaineering associations, has, decided to make a guide mandatory for solo or free independent trekkers (FITs) due to increasing safety concerns.

Some experts, however, said the move is a restriction on the free movement of trekkers, particularly for those coming to Nepal to experience adventure. It could be counter-productive for the country’s ailing tourism industry, they added.

FITs are travellers who plan their own trips and prefer to travel alone. The concept of FIT tourism includes travellers booking without a tour operator.

Many independent travellers are very price-conscious. In Nepal’s context, the numbers in this segment are growing rapidly since Nepal’s mountains are connected to the internet nowadays.

Nepal Tourism Board has been mandated to issue the trekkers information management systems (TIMS) cards before they start trekking.

“Therefore, the board reserves the right to make a guide mandatory for solo trekkers,” said Mani Raj Lamichhane, the Board’s Spokesperson.

Thirteen other travel and tourism-related organisations have signed the minutes for the upkeep of legal records that such a decision was taken at a board meeting on Sunday.

“The decision, however, will not be applicable to Nepali trekkers,” said Lamichhane.

The tourism board has also increased the fee charged to trekkers. For trekkers from third countries, other than South Asia, the fee for TIMS card or the trekking permit has been hiked to INR 2,000, from INR 1,000 per person. It used to cost INR 2,000 for the FITs. The new fee too would come into effect from April 1.

Similarly, for South Asian trekkers, the fee for group trekkers is INR 300 and INR 600 for FITs. Now, both will have to pay INR 1,000.

According to Nepal Tourism Board, it issued more than 46,000 TIMS cards for FITs in 2019.
The Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021 affected the trekking sector. In 2022, according to the board, there were 19,415 FITs.

Nepal’s private travel and tourism bodies, particularly the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, has been lobbying for a one-trekker, one-guide system, since 2012.

The apex body of the country’s trekking agencies had announced that solo trekkers would have to take along a guide from September 1, 2012, as per government orders. However, it was forced to backtrack after the Tourism Ministry said it had not issued any such directive.

In 2012, when the news circulated, the Nepal Tourism Board, including a large section of the travel and trade industry, received a flurry of inquiries. (Source: The Kathmandu Post)

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