The resumption of flights to Bhuntar Airport in Kullu after a month-long hiatus was definitely a shot in the arm to the tourism industry; though worries are not yet over for the industry, thanks to the precarious condition of the Kullu-Manali national highway, an arterial road, which is taking its toll on the tourists' footfall.
Thousands of tourists, who visit Kullu and Manali for vacation every year, are the lifeblood of the tourism industry and a means of good and sustained revenue generation for the Himachal government.
However, owing to the pathetic condition of the national highway, feels the industry, the footfall is on the wane. The road from Raysan to Manali is in a bad shape, enough to make commuters' journey miserable.
Anup Thakur, president of Hotelier's Association, Kullu-Manali, told Hindustan Times the resumption of flights to Kullu had brighten the hopes of the tourism industry, and urged the Himachal government to increase the frequency of the flights so that it could give a boost to the tourism sector.
However, worried over the poor condition of the NH from Raysan to Manali and other parts of the district, where tourists' footfall is normally very high owing to its scenic beauty, Thakur said that we had requested the government to maintain the NH properly for the betterment of the tourism sector. "Most of the tourists take to the NH to reach Kullu and Manali while fearing uncomfortable journey many visitors cancel their trip."
Buttressing Thakur's statement, Naresh Kumar, a bus driver, said: "The NH has developed potholes at several places that make driving very difficult and uncomfortable experience."
Meanwhile, the tourism industry in Kullu has been witnessing a steep fall in tourists' footfall in the district.
According to district tourism officer, Kullu, Ashwani Kumar, last year 30,82,545 Indian and 1,43,900 foreign tourists had visited the district, but this year the number had shrunk to 14,68,914 Indian and 55,679 foreign tourists till June.
He said the Uttarakhand and Kinnaur tragedies had also added to the woes of the tourism sector.
"We demand from the government to take serious cognisance of the problem, as livelihood of most of the people living in this region depends on tourism," said Thakur.
"We demand the construction of Manali Bridge and Manali bypass road for the comfort of the tourists," he added.
Prem Aanad, sub-divisional officer (SDO) with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in Raysan region, said the repair work was on, and the road would be restored soon.