Spike in tourists in Himachal sets cash register ringing

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh's popular tourist resorts Shimla, Manali, Narkanda, Kasauli, Kalpa and Dharamsala are chock-a-block with the tourists this long weekend, bringing cheer to tour operators and hoteliers as their cash registers are set ringing. Members of the hospitality industry said the tourist footfall was likely to cross the 75,000-mark across the state in the three-day-long weekend that will end with the Independence Day celebrations on Monday. Like in Shimla, hotels in nearby destinations like Kufri and Narkanda also reported almost 100 per cent occupancy. "Most of the destinations are heading to record a good revenue due to an increase in the inflow of tourists mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi this weekend," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corp (HPTDC) general manager Vijay Sharma said. He said the response of the tourists was good because of the ongoing tension in Jammu and Kashmir. Sharma said most of the properties in Shimla have been sold out till Sunday. However, the occupancy rates at Kasauli, Chail, Narkanda, Dharamsala and Palampur is more than 70 per cent. "This time Manali has not been able to attract more tourists mainly due to negative publicity by the media regarding frequent landslides on the national highway linking Chandigarh with Manali," he added. D.P. Bhatia, general manager of the Oberoi Group's Clarkes Hotel, said all three properties of the group in Shimla have been sold out for three days. "Still we are getting a number of queries," he added. Shimla, known for the imperial grandeur of its buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India, and its nearby destinations have been witnessing intermittent rains for over a week. Shalini Singh, a newlywed from Delhi, said: "What a cool and lush green the hills here are. We purchased woollens after reaching Shimla." She said that she had extended her stay in Shimla for a day. Her husband Arunava said this was the best time to soak in the hills ahead of the winter. But, members from hospitality industry, have cautioned tourists about travelling to the hills during the rainy season. Here are a few tips: Make sure your trip is planned well in advance. Check on general road conditions and confirm whether the high mountain passes are open. The tourists are advised to carry woollens as the temperatures in the hills have fallen sharply due to continuous rainfall. For holidaymakers, the good news is that after almost a week of moderate to heavy rainfall the monsoon will now largely remain subdued in the coming week in the state. "The monsoon will remain subdued in the region from August 15 to 19, with chances of light rains," an official from the local Met office said on Sunday. Currently, the state has 2,416 hotels with a bed capacity of 67,097, besides 662 home stay units having 1,838 rooms. The hospitality industry contributes 9.75 per cent to the gross domestic product of the state.