Himachal sees heavy rush of tourists as curfew affects tourism in Kashmir

Himachal Pradesh launches mega tourism plan for developing tourism products & infrastructure as it gets Rs 34-crore from Centre; More parking lots, toilets planned for benefit of tourists

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Himachal Pradesh has bounced back with heavy rush of hotel reservations, following last week’s sectarian clashes and curfew in Kashmir. Leading hotels at popular hill destinations, including Shimla, Kullu-Manali and Dharamshala, have received the highest bookings in the last one week after facing a decline in tourists by 20% for two months. Most rooms in these hotels and luxury tourist resorts have been booked from December 15 to January 31, 2013.

State Chief Secretary Sudripta Roy said, “Himachal Pradesh can be proud of the fact that it is one of the most peaceful and safe tourist destinations in the country. Due to this factor, tourists have cancelled their bookings to Srinagar and have opted for Himachal Pradesh. There is a four-fold increase in the bookings. This will certainly make up for the 20 per cent loss incurred in the past few months”. Roy rejected the contention that non-availability of air connectivity to the state had caused a blow to the tourism industry.

“On December 14, Union Secretary for Civil Aviation K N Srivastava has called a meeting to discuss the expansion of the Bhuntar airport. I will raise the issue to start Air India flights for all three airports, including Shimla, Dharamshala and Kullu before December 25 to encash on Christmas and New Year celebrations,” the chief secretary said. 

The Himachal Pradesh government also rolled out a mega tourism plan on Thursday to optimise the state’s tourism potential, improve tourism product and create additional infrastructure, including 75 new parking slots at major tourists towns and construction of toilets at all tourist-centric destinations for the benefit of tourists.

State’s pioneering ‘Home-stay’ scheme, eco-tourism and rural tourism will also be linked with other departments to create stakes for locals and also different agencies to attract tourists, both domestic and foreigners.

At a meeting with stake-holders, including major government departments, State Chief Secretary Sudripta Roy said beside focusing on dispersal of tourism activity to new areas, including rural areas, the government will invest Rs 86 crore on creation of infrastructure. Of this, Rs 52 crore has already been utilised and all targets will be met by December 31 to fully utilise the funds given by the Ministry of Tourism.

“Tourism Director Arun Sharma, who was in Delhi a few days ago, received sanction for Rs 34 crore to improve infrastructure in Manali. The project will enrich and upgrade existing facilities at most favoured destinations,” Sharma told mediapersons after the meeting.

Three mega parking projects will be taken up at Dalhousie, Dharamshala and Shimla for Rs 4.52 crore. Another initiative is creation of wayside amenities at 40 places through out the state, including information centres, cafeterias, clock rooms. Land have been identified for this purpose and work has begun at seven places.

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