Himachal hotels ready for New Year tourist rush

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Shimla : The Himachal Pradesh tourism industry, which saw a drop in bookings post 26/11, has once again geared up for tourists who have started arriving across the state to ring in the New Year on a high note.

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The occupancy of the hotels, which had plummeted due to the global financial meltdown and Mumbai terror attack, is all set to register an upward trend in the last few days of the year.

“Despite all hindrances, the tourism sector in the hill state has the potential to revive at a faster rate than neighbouring states,” Tourism Secretary Manisha Nanda told IANS Saturday.

She was quite optimistic about the revival of the tourism industry.

“In the next few days, the arrival of tourists is expected to double and we expect the scenario would change for the better in the coming year too,” she said.

“In fact, the business was quite good on Christmas. We expect that the party circuit in Shimla will remain alive in the days to come. Preparations are on to welcome the New Year with the city’s identity ‘joie de vivre’ spirit,” said Ashwani Sood, general secretary of the Shimla Hotel Association.

He said the tourism industry had suffered massively this year due to an untimely monsoon, a prolonged agitation by the Gujjar community in Rajasthan, the global financial meltdown and then the terror attack in Mumbai.

This time again popular tourist resort Manali in Kullu district is emerging as a hotspot for the tourists.

Manali gets nearly 60 percent of the tourists visiting the hill state every year.

“Most of the tourists prefer to visit Manali due to good snowfall in nearby areas,” said Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) assistant general manager Yogesh Behl, who is posted in that city.

He said on phone that most tourists were visiting the Solang valley and Kothi, which are close to Manali, for skiing, making snowmen and throwing snowballs at each other.

Anil Kumar, secretary of the Manali Hoteliers Association, said the arrival of tourists picked up after snowfall.

“Early snowfall in Solang and Kothi areas is an added attraction for the tourists. Moreover, the snow-bound areas are accessible by road,” he said.

The HPTDC has come out with special packages to attract and extend the stay of the tourists.

Tourism secretary Nanda said that nine HPTDC-run hotels at Shimla, Manali, Chail, Dalhousie and Dharamsala had select packages to attract the tourists on New Year eve.

“A number of packages are being worked out for the tourists like Chail Palace’s ‘Maharaja Suite’ offers Rs.30,000 for a couple, while Hotel Barog offers Rs.5,600 per couple,” she said.

Certain segments in the tourism industry were still keeping their fingers crossed about the tourist inflow.

“Any escalation of tension along the India-Pakistan border could sour our dreams,” said Rahul Negi, a hotelier of Shimla.

Himachal Pradesh, known for its delicious apples, a World Heritage railway and picture-perfect tourist spots, last year attracted over 8.8 million tourists, including 339,000 foreigners.