Himachal: Atal tunnel craze, snowfall in Manali increase tourist footfall in Kullu on New Year
Snowfall in Manali, craze to see Atal Tunnel and no entry to tourist vehicles without bookings in Shimla city has increased the tourist footfall in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district on New Year.
Tourists are flocking to Atal Tunnel (Rohtang) and it has increased the footfall in the twin districts of Lahaul and Spiti and Kullu besides snowfall in Manali is a major attraction, president of Manali Hoteliers' Association Mukesh Thakur said, adding the occupancy is about 90 percent.
Gondola at Solang, Igloo stays in Hamta, winter sports activities in and around Manali, skiing and snowboarding courses offered by Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports Manali too are the major tourist attractions, he said.
However, he said the huge rush of vehicles is not converted into the room occupancy as a large number of people from outside the state have taken properties on lease and are running accommodations as tourism units without registration. These illegal properties are offering rooms on heavy discounts, Thakur added.
Vice president of Shimla Hotel and Restaurant Association Prince Kukreja said being a weekend and New Year, the hoteliers are expecting a huge rush but so far, the occupancy is not up to expectation.
Maybe snowfall at Manali and craze for Atal Tunnel has turned tourists towards Manali side, he added.
He said advance bookings were being cancelled as people are dropping their travel plans. It may be due to the new Covid variant, he added.
“We are hoping that rush would increase on Saturday and by late evening the town would be packed to capacity,'' Kukreja said.
However, president of Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association M K Seth said a large number of online bookings have been cancelled as the district administration decided not to allow tourist vehicles without hotel bookings into the city and the occupancy in Shimla is about 60 percent.
The occupancy in hotels during weekends was over 80 percent but still the booking and occupancy is not up to expectations. However, the things would improve as the day progresses, said a local hotelier Sushant Nag.
The orders of the district administration not allowing tourists vehicles without hotel bookings in Shimla city resulted in low footfall of tourists as they planned to go to destinations with lesser restrictions and more convenience, he said. A huge chunk of tourists from the neighboring states come without any booking, he added.
The district administration in a statement had informed that tourists with confirmed hotel bookings would be allowed in the city while tourist vehicles without confirmed bookings would be parked at Tutikandi parking.
Shuttle service (HRTC Bus service) would be available in the city from Old Bus Stand to Central Telegraph Office. Tourist buses and heavy vehicles would not be allowed in the city. In case of heavy rush, vehicles would be diverted through Tutikandi-Malyana road, officials said.
In case of heavy vehicular traffic, vehicles would be staggered from Shoghi. The idea is to provide safe and trouble-free stay for tourists and avoid traffic jams in the city, they added.
Additional police force has been deployed and the city has been divided into six sectors, Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, Aditya Negi said, adding the responsibility of overseeing each sector has been assigned to the magistrate and nodal police officers have also been deployed in each sector to ensure traffic management and law and order.
As many as 1.39 crore tourists visited Himachal till November 30 this year compared to 56.37 lakhs last year, as per data procured from the tourism department which was hoping to touch the pre-Covid tourist inflow figures by the year end as December is the peak tourist season.
The Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation has organised events to mark Christmas and New Year in prime properties in Shimla, Manali, Chail, Dharamshala and other places and private hotels are also hosting events to welcome tourists on New Year.
The tourism and allied industry suffered immense losses during the Covid pandemic and tourist inflow dropped by 81 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019. The tourist arrival in Himachal Pradesh was 1.72 crore in 2019, which crashed to 32.13 lakh in 2020 and marginally recovered to 56.37 lakh in 2021.
With a surge in Covid cases around the globe, the state health department has issued an advisory to observe Covid appropriate behavior to keep check on increase in cases.
Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has directed tourism and other departments to follow the slogan of 'Atithi Devo Bhava', facilitate the tourists and make adequate arrangements and proper traffic plan in all districts for the smooth flow of traffic. He has also allowed eateries at tourist places to be opened round the clock.
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