The Himachal Pradesh hospitality industry is gearing up to welcome IPL fans at Kings XI Punjab's last two home matches at a stadium in Dharamsala, the abode of Dalai Lama, plus a galaxy of stars in the extended cricket season.
The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) stadium, one of the newest venues in the country, is situated nearly 4,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by majestic Dhauladhar ranges that make it one of the most beautiful grounds in the world.
Over 20,000 tourists, mainly from the plains of north India are expected to visit Dharamsala during the five-day cricket bonanza that starts with the season's first IPL match here on May 16 and ends with a T-20 charity match between MPs' XI and Mumbai Heroes on May 20, tourism industry experts said.
"Almost all our hotels are full from Wednesday to Monday. Of course, the cricket craze is always a holiday hit," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) general manager Yogesh Behl told IANS on Wednesday.
He said even the nearby tourist destinations are packed to capacity.
Match organisers said the HPCA stadium's popularity soared with the success of seven IPL matches in the past three seasons.
"This time we have got matches allocated in such a way that a cricket fan can mix game with the leisure and pleasure in the hills," Anurag Thakur, HPCA president and Lok Sabha member, told IANS.
He said the added attraction to the IPL season is the charity match being organised by the Constitution Club of India between parliamentarians and stars here on May 20.
Mohammad Azharuddin and Kirti Azad, both cricketers-turned-MPs, Rajeev Shukla, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Dushyant Singh are among the MPs' XI, besides Thakur.
The team of Mumbai Heroes includes Suniel Shetty, Bobby Deol, Sohail Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, Aftab Shivdasani and Harman Baweja.
Thakur said the match of parliamentarians would be an annual fixture here. "We are planning to organise MPs match twice a year at Dharamsala. This will, of course, give a boost to state's tourism industry too," he added.
Tushar and Aditi Sharma from Chandigarh said it's more than cricket this weekend.
"After seeing Sachin (Tendulkar) in action, we plan to spend a day in nearby tea estates. Then after witnessing the stars (May 20), we will be back to our routine jobs," Aditi said.
Others who want to mix cricket with spiritualism can visit Kangra, Baijnath and Jwalaji, known for prominent Hindu shrines.
Most of these towns are within a 40 km radius of the stadium.
McLeodganj, the uphill quaint town where the Dalai Lama resides, is known for its Tibetan artefacts and traditional recipes like Tibetan dumplings.
"We are expecting a good stream of tourists this weekend," said Pankaj Chadha, owner of McLio restaurant in McLeodganj.
The first match is between Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab May 16, while Mumbai Indians take on Kings XI Punjab May 18.
The former would be played at night and the latter is a day-and-night affair.