SHIMLA-If the plains of northern India are shivering and dense fog is spoiling New Year celebrations, head for the hills of Himachal Pradesh. There will be a lot of relief as the long sunny days have rendered the hills unusually warm.
Members of the hospitality industry say it`s the prevailing bright sunny days that are attracting tourists, mainly from the plains, to the hills. They estimate that the tourist footfall is likely to cross the 50,000-mark across the state to ring in the New Year.
“As the sun is eluding the residents in the plains due to dense fog, a bright morning in the hills is an added attraction for tourists,” Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corp (HPTDC) general manager Yogesh Behl said.
Shimla`s meteorological director Manmohan Singh said the popular tourist destinations Shimla, Kasauli, Narkanda, Dharamsala, Palampur, Manali, Chamba and Dalhousie have been experiencing sunny days for over a week and this would continue till Jan 2.
He said the days were quite pleasant in the hills compared to the plains but the night temperature has been quite low in most tourist spots like Shimla, Narkanda, Kasauli, Manali, Dalhousie and Chamba.
General manager D.P. Bhatia of Clarke`s Hotel here said: “We are advising the tourists to travel to Kufri and Narkanda if they want to enjoy snowy landscape.”
Narkanda, the heart of the apple belt some 65 km from Shimla, has good accumulation of snow. Skiing is an added attraction there.
Shimla – known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India – saw the season`s first snowfall Dec 13-14. It has snowy landscape in some patches, mostly in the Mount Jakhu hills, the highest peak of the town.
Manali in Kullu district, about 250 km from here, which remained out of bounds for almost a week after the Dec 13 snowfall, is again a magnet for holidaymakers.
“The current trend of tourist arrivals indicate that most hotels will again be packed to capacity before the next year dawns,” Manali-based prominent travel agent M.C. Thakur said.
Gulaba and Solang slopes, near Manali, still have good snow accumulation and the tourists are heading there to enjoy ski or ride sledges and snow scooters, he said.
The most sought after destinations are Shimla, Narkanda, Kasauli, Sangla, Manali, Dharamsala, Palampur and Dalhousie, say travel agencies.
Behl said most HPTDC hotels in Shimla and nearby destinations were packed to capacity.
“However, in Manali the occupancy rate is 60-70 percent. But we expect 100 percent on the last day.”
The mountain peaks viewed from Shimla`s historic Ridge have been wrapped in a thick white blanket of snow.
Excited holiday makers, mainly from northern states, have already started descending on tourist resorts in the state to enjoy New Year`s Eve.
Deepika Khanna, a senior executive with a Delhi-based multinational, said: “We are really enjoying the sun. The lack of snow in Shimla has not disappointed us at all.”
In the state capital, located at a height of 7,000 feet above sea level, it`s the ice that is an attraction for the tourists.
Asia`s oldest skating clay surface rink has been holding regular skating sessions since Dec 26 due to the natural formation of a thick coating of ice owing to the freezing winter.
Himachal`s economy is highly dependent on tourism, besides hydroelectric power and horticulture.
Himachal Pradesh has 2,169 registered hotels with a capacity of 55,928 beds.
ADB funds Rs. 1900 crore tourism project for Himachal
The design of the project is based on the detailed baseline data, a study conducted of 324 sites in 12 districts of the state, suggestions obtained from about 90,000 tourists.
Shimla: The Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India has approved a tourism infrastructure development project worth about Rs. 1900 crores to be funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for development of tourism infrastructure in the urban and rural areas of Himachal Pradesh.
With the help of this ADB funded project, the state would develop tourism in rural, unexplored areas and improve the infrastructure of the towns and also generate employment for the local youths and showcase Himachal as the best natural tourist destination state, the State Government informed.
Additional Chief Secretary, Tourism Ram Subhag Singh further informed the project would be completed in eight years.
The project is supposed to focus on diversification of tourism to new and rural areas by developing tourism infrastructure, create livelihood and employment opportunities through rural, adventure and ecotourism.
The project also mentions the application of innovative models like incentive-based mechanisms for community-based tourism activities, augmentation of services like water supply, sewerage, solid waste, skill development related to the tourism sector, advertising and marketing etc.
He claimed it would be one of the finest examples of sustainable tourism in the Himalayan States.
The project will have both hard and soft components and will include beautification of towns, development of unexplored areas, conservation and restoration of heritage buildings, infrastructure development in adventure, eco, rural tourism with an emphasis on community participation and employment generation.
The design of the project is based on the detailed baseline data, a study conducted of 324 sites in 12 districts of the state and suggestions obtained from about 90,000 tourists and designed in line with sustainable tourism guideline for the Himalayan States.
The Government said the Department of Economic Affairs was satisfied with the performance and progress of the State on the ongoing ADB funded project of about Rs.600 crores.
Future of India is in tourism, says Alphons at conference on Himachal’s eco-tourism potential
Shimla: The Union Minister of State for Tourism Minister K. J. Alphons on Tuesday said the future of India is in tourism as the global tourism witnessed a growth of 7 per cent, while tourism in India grew by 15.6 per cent.
He was speaking during the inauguration ceremony of the two days International Conference on ‘Eco-Tourism Potential in Himachal Pradesh’ organized by the State Forest Department and Eco-Tourism Society of Himachal Pradesh at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali in Kullu district.
It is true that the potential of tourism in Himachal is promising. Sadly, the previous government of the both ruling and opposition parties did not do much to encourage eco-tourism or environmental conservation. The efforts were limited to announcements and proposals.
Some of the appreciable steps in this regard, which are very rare, were a ban on plastic bags and thermocol cups and plates.
All major international tourism destinations of the State have witnessed an unplanned growth of concrete and rise in the daily generation of solid waste. However, except for Shimla town, none of the other districts has a solid waste treatment plant. The Municipal Councils of these towns are still using landfills.
It was only recently in 2018 that the State Government made an announcement for the establishment of waste management plants in various districts. However, the government did not provide any deadline for the completion.
New Announcements of HP Govt
On Tuesday, the Himachal Pradesh Government has announced the development of 113 sites boost the eco-tourism. Out the total, five sites would be developed in a Public Private Partnership mode. Other 16 sites would be developed by the State Forest Department and 47 by the HP the State Forest Corporation. These agencies would are supposed to start eco-tourism activities at these sites.
It was announced that 25 new destinations would be developed by constructing log huts for tourists.
Three eco-tourism hubs would be developed during the current financial year and 10 places would be developed as adventure tourism spot of Himachal in collaboration with Eco-Tourism Society, Tourism Department and Mountaineering Institute, Manali.
Further, the government claimed that 31 eco-tourism circuits has been prepared and would be sent for approval to the Centre.
Nature parks and herbal gardens are being developed in the State and as many as 50 Forest Rest Houses have started eco-tourism activities in the State. It said efforts would be made to link eco-tourism with the rural life, culture and traditions.
The government expects it would not only give a boost to the unexplored and virgin tourist destinations of the State but also help in boosting economic activities in the rural areas of the State.
The government said it would spend Rs 50 crore on a new scheme ‘Nayae Rahaien Nayae Manzilain’, under which new tourist destinations would be developed in the State.
The government has banned the use of thermocol cup plates in the State from June 5 on the occasion of World Environment Day. These steps would go a long way in ensuring a clean environment of the State.
The eco-tourism could have several components such as trekking, mountain biking, river rafting, skiing, heli-skiing, camping, rock climbing, bird watching etc.
The government said the exploration of new destinations would not only provide much-needed solace to the tourists visiting these pristine new places in the State but also lessen the burden on already crowded tourist destinations of the State.
The Government would also associate private players to invest in eco-tourism projects.
The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur filled a membership form of Eco Club on the occasion. Several MoUs for eco-tourism projects were signed on the occasion between different organizations and companies.
The left bank Manali road would be taken up through World Bank of CRF funding for its timely completion.
The announcements do sound appreciable, but in reality, the government is still struggling even to provide basic facilities to the public. The tourism industry in Shimla had taken a hit due to the water-scarcity caused by mismanagement and preparedness of the government.
Himachal seeks Rs. 300 crore from Centre to promote religious tourism circuit and eco-adventure tourism
Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Government has urged the Union Minister for Tourism, K.J. Alphons to sanction three schemes worth Rs. 300 crore to promote religious tourism circuit and eco-adventure tourism in the state.
The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, during a meeting in New Delhi, apprised the Minister that Himachal was also a major centre of religious tourism and religious tourism circuits will be developed here to provide devotees more facilities.
The Chief Minister also invited Union Minister to Himachal and said that he himself will take him to the tourist destinations of the State. K.J. Alphons whole-heartedly accepted the invitation.
Chief Minister also urged the Centre to provide funds generously for widespread publicity of tourism sites in the state.
The Union Minister of State for Tourism assured the Chief Minister that the Union Government will extend all possible support to this hill state for exploitation and expansion of its tourism potential.
The Chief Minister said that the focus should be on tourism in the state, which was not given before. However, now the state government is giving special emphasis to strengthening infrastructure in virgin natural places, he said.
Himachal has immense potential for adventure tourism and adventure sports like mountaineering, biking, river rafting, and paragliding and the state is considered as a paradise for these adventure sports.
However, it is true that the governments have done very little to polish and maintain the tourism sector.
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