With plains sizzling, holidaymakers rush to Himachal for long weekend


Amid a decline in Covid-19 cases and to escape the early setting of scorching heat in plains, hordes of holidaymakers converged across destinations in Himachal Pradesh on Thursday, the first day of the onset of a long weekend that lasts till April 17.

As per the hospitality industry, the state capital and its nearby picnic spots have been geared up to play host to over 50,000 tourists in the extended four-day weekend.

Keeping in mind to set cash registers ringing, several private hoteliers in prominent destinations like Shimla, Kufri, Manali, Dharamsala, Palampur, Kasauli and Chail have hiked room tariffs.

Available information suggests a room fetching Rs 1,000 last year owing to the pandemic is sold off at Rs 5,000 a day in most of the hotels in Shimla, Kufri, Chail, Narkanda and Kasauli.

Apart from the weekend, Thursday is B.R. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary and also festival of Baisakhi and the following day is Good Friday. So by combining this with the weekend, people could celebrate for four days at a stretch.

“Almost all our properties in Shimla and its nearby destinations like Chail, Kufri, Narkanda and Kasauli are packed to capacity till this weekend,” a senior official with Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) told IANS here.

He said most tourists prefer to visit those destinations from where they can enjoy the view of snow-laden hills.

Besides Shimla and Manali, the most sought after destinations are Narkanda, Sangla, Kasauli, Chail, Palampur, Dharamsala and Dalhousie, he said.

Chandigarh-based entrepreneur Rakesh Bhandari said: “After a long gap of fear and anxiety owing to the pandemic, we got an opportunity for a family vacation. Since media reports say the entire Kashmir is packed to capacity, we decided to travel to Shimla.”

His daughter Neha added: “What a pleasant weather in the hills from the scorching conditions in Chandigarh.”

Manali remains a favourite for tourists due nearby chuckling snow-laden mountains.

“Nearby hills of Manali still have plenty of snow where the tourists can enjoy,” a Manali-based travel agent told IANS over the phone.

Seeing the rush of tourists, taxi drivers and guides are openly fleecing the tourists by quoting high rates, pinching the pockets of holidaymakers.

“In Kufri, pony owners are virtually trying to poach you despite your refusals. You will end up getting charged hefty for a ride,” said tourist Deepak Talwar.

According to various reports, there has been an increase of 80-90 per cent in the tourist inflow to the state compared to last year.

But a word of caution for the motorists travelling towards the Kunzum Pass.

Lahaul-Spiti Deputy Commissioner Neeraj Kumar has advised tourists and locals to avoid travelling through Kaza-Losar-Gramphu-Koksar highway as the road is not restored for traffic.

The highway passes through 14,931 feet (4,551m) Kunzum Pass.

The state economy is highly dependent on hydroelectric power, horticulture and tourism.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)



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