Early summer comes as a blessing for Himachal Pradesh tourism

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Stakeholders focusing on religious, tribal, adventure, nature and weekend tourism

Stakeholders focusing on religious, tribal, adventure, nature and weekend tourism

The summer season has set in a tad early this year in most parts of the country, pushing several people to head to Himachal Pradesh to beat the summer heat. It has brought cheer to the hospitality industry which had been crippled due to the COVID–19 outbreak. 

In Totu, the sub–urban area of Shimla, Rajesh Sharma, running a budget hotel, is overjoyed with the rush of guests over the past fortnight. “It’s the first time since I started the hotel business in March 2020, when the first nationwide lockdown was announced, that my hotel is running to full capacity. Usually, the tourist season begins at the fag end of April, but thanks to the early summer, a lot of tourists have been visiting the hill town since the beginning of March itself. Also, earlier it was only the “walk–in” tourists who were visiting during the weekends, but now there’s a regular influx of visitors. I have an advance reservation for all my rooms till June,” said Mr. Sharma on Saturday.

Mr. Sharma is also hopeful that with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the hard–pressed sector will gradually revive from the jolt it suffered. Several others in the hospitality sector including taxi drivers, tourist guides, ‘dhabas’ and restaurants are also pinning their hopes on the hotel business returning to normal.

Padam Dev, who runs a taxi and works as a tourist guide in Shimla, is anticipating brisk business. “Tourist inflow is back to normal. Tourist buses are coming, which has given a boost to the taxi business. I used to earn ₹1,000–₹1,200 daily before COVID–19 struck. Now I am beginning to earn again and hope the situation will only improve in the days to come,” he said.

In Kasauli, another prominent tourist destination, U.D. Sharma, incharge at Ros Common, a hotel of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, says: “Tourists are visiting from several parts of the country including Gujarat, West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The ‘royal’ clients, who stay for a considerably longer period, are back now. Business is on its way back to being normal this year,” he said.

The hospitality sector is linked to the tourism sector and in Himachal Pradesh, tourism remains the main source of revenue generation and employment. According to government data, there was a sharp (-81.33%) contraction in the arrival of tourists across the State in 2020 compared to the previous year. The tourist arrival however picked up after the initial lockdown, as it reached 75.43% in 2021.

Restriction on the movements of the people first impacted the transport and then the hotel and tourism sector. The restrictions due to the second wave crippled the tourism sector, which was already struggling to recover the initial loss it suffered in 2020. After the initial lockdown, it started recovering sharply. While the growth rate of hotels and restaurants was (-) 78.7% in 2020-21, it has increased to 56.5% in 2021-22, show the data.

Amit Kashyap, Director, Tourism and Managing Director of HPTDC, told The Hindu that a huge number of tourists are thronging the State, which is a good sign for the State’s economy.

“As the COVID-19 restrictions have been removed, we are aggressively publicising and campaigning to attract tourists from across the country and abroad. Our stress is on promoting rural tourism and for this, the government has been building the required infrastructure in those locations which are not frequently visited. Lots of people are visiting rural areas in the State. We want people to visit unexplored destinations. We are continuously focusing on developing five segments — religious tourism, tribal tourism, adventure tourism, nature tourism, and weekend tourism,” he said.



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