April 2016: The costs of traveling to Tibet have just increased due to a new controversial government regulation.
Tibet Travel Costs to Increase
UPDATED APRIL 2016
Since the early part of 2015, there have been rumors that major changes were coming to Tibet tourism. The rumors were that there would be a new “Tibet Transportation Co-Op” which would provide all of the vehicles used for tourists in Tibet. Over the years, the vehicles used in Tibet tourism have come from both transportation co-op’s as well as travel agencies who owned their own vehicles and private drivers who were licensed to carry tourists. A new regulation, that has gone into effect this week (April 2016), will now have one main travel co-op in charge of nearly ALL tourist vehicles in Tibet. This “co-op” just happens to be backed by the Communist government.
Tourist vehicle costs in Tibet have stayed roughly the same for the past 6 or 8 years. The high season demand, from June through early October, usually makes tourist vehicles cost 25% to 40% more compared to the low season. However, the new “Tibet Transportation Co-Op” has the complete freedom to charge whatever they want as they now completely own the market on tourist vehicles. Starting from last year, the Tibet Transportation Co-Op has stated that they would be significantly raising the per kilometer rates of tourist vehicles. Most travel agencies expected the price raise would be about 50% more than what the rates have been the past several years. Unfortunately, travel agencies found out recently that the price raise would be much, much higher.
Starting this month, the cost for tourist vehicles in Tibet in the high season months from June through October will be nearly 3 times as much as what they have been in previous years. Even in the low season months, the costs will be nearly double compared to what they have been. This is a much bigger price increase than travel agencies expected. All travel agencies in Tibet must abide by this new regulation. This regulation is NOT made by travel agencies, but is set forth by the government. Travel agencies have no choice but to follow this new (and ridiculous) regulation.
What does this mean? This means that travel to Tibet just became even more expensive. Tibet already is an expensive place to travel and it just became more expensive. When I saw the new prices for tourist vehicles, which are based on a per kilometer rate, I could not believe what I saw. I was completely shocked. I called several travel agency partners across Tibet yesterday and all of them are worried about tourism this year due to the high costs the government is demanding on tourist vehicles.
Many agencies are having to contact customers who have booked tours in Tibet for later this year and are having to break the news to them that their tour price is going to have to increase. If you receive an email from a travel agency stating that your Tibet tour for later this year has increased in price, please understand that it is NOT the travel agency’s fault. The price increase is far more than travel agencies were told. This new vehicle regulation comes straight from the top government and travel agencies have no choice but to follow it. Travel agencies, many of which already struggle to stay in business, will lose large amounts of money if they do not adjust their tour prices. I too, am having to contact a handful of clients who are traveling with me later this year to try and explain the situation to them.
The new “Tibet Transportation Co-Op” has set different vehicle rates depending on the time of year. The lowest vehicle prices are the months of November, December, January and early February (be advised that Tibet is closed to foreign travelers each year from mid February through the end of March). The prices during these months are still considerably higher than what prices have been in the past, but are much lower than what the new high season rates are. The next cheapest time to travel in Tibet are the months of April and May. The high season months of June through the end of October are the most expensive, with rates being nearly 3 times what they were in 2015.
I know this may be difficult for some of you to understand as you probably come from a free country where there are a lot more freedoms. But in Tibet (China), the government heavily regulates business, especially tourism. If you have any questions about this new policy, please feel free to email me and I will happily explain the situation more: firstname.lastname@example.org