Shimla: The tourism sector in Himachal Pradesh suffered losses of about Rs 2,000 crore in July and August, owing to which hoteliers in the state have started offering attractive packages to get back on track.
The tourism industry in the hill state, which was in the revival process after Covid-19, received another blow as the monsoon wreaked havoc, leading to low tourist footfall.
This sector, which contributes over Rs 14,000 crore annually to Himachal Pradesh’s GDP, lost around Rs 2,000 crore during July and August as heavy rains damaged road infrastructure — the lifeline of the hill state — and also cast a shadow on the already restricted air and rail connectivity, officials of the tourism department said.
“The tourism industry has suffered heavy losses and the only silver lining was an influx of devotees in six Shakti Peeths in Una, Bilaspur and Kangra districts of the state,” Amit Kashyap, managing director of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC), told PTI on Sunday.
About 8.24 lakh pilgrims visited Chintpurni, Sri Naina Devi, Jawalaji, Brajeshwari, Sri Baglamukhi and Chamunda Devi shrines during the Navratri from August 17 to 25, according to police data.
The pre-monsoon season, however, witnessed a surge in tourist arrival and a maximum of 1.06 crore tourists visited Himachal Pradesh during the first six months of 2023 as compared to 86.4 lakh in the corresponding period in 2022, but the monsoon fury played the spoilsport, Kashyap added.
Meanwhile, Shimla Hotels and Tourism Stakeholders Association president M K Seth said the roads to Shimla are opened and the tourism industry is offering attractive packages with 40 to 50 per cent discounts.
“We can only hope that the public holiday in New Delhi from September 8 to 10 in view of the scheduled G20 Summit could break the ice as few inquiries have poured in,” he added.
Seth said the situation is not as bad as portrayed in the news and on the flip side, hotel rates are discounted and traffic is less than usual.
“We expect things will improve in October,” he added.
Gajender Thakur, the president of the Federation of Himachal Hotels and Restaurant Associations, said the roads along the Beas River were washed away in Manali, but the traffic is being diverted through alternate roads.
Thakur emphasised the problem is between Mandi and Kullu as frequent landslides near Pandoh are blocking the roads.
“The hoteliers in Manali are ready to receive tourists and we met the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, who assured us that the roads would be opened soon. We are expecting that tourist inflow would increase from the first or second week of October,” he said.
Thakur added the association is also writing a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to defer the loans raised by the hoteliers and revoke the fixed charges of electricity and others till tourism is revived.
Besides hotels, the allied tourism industry, taxi operators, travel agents and shopkeepers have also been hit.
Devender Rana, the owner of Paradise Tours and Travel, said heavy rains led to mass cancellation of bookings in July and tourism would pick up in October as the monsoon would be over and the Dussehra holidays would also follow.
A total of 397 persons — 257 in rain-related incidents and 140 in accidents — have died since the onset of monsoon from June 24 till September 2, as per the data of the state emergency operation centre.
This monsoon, the hill state has so far suffered losses to the tune of Rs 8,663 crore, data from the centre showed.
The public works department suffered maximum losses of Rs 2,937 crore, it added.