The Himachal Pradesh government is introducing heli-taxi services in tribal areas of the state to tap high-spending adventure tourists.
"The tourism department will invite technical and financial bids for the introduction of tourist helicopter services in various tourist resorts," Tourism Secretary Manisha Nanda told IANS on Thursday.
"The decision to start heli-taxi service in the state was taken at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Of course, this will attract adventure tourists, both domestic and foreigners," she added.
Travel agents are happy with the decision, saying poor air connectivity within the state is proving a deterrence to the tourism market.
Secretary of the Manali Hoteliers Association Anil Kumar said: "Tourist resort of Manali is facing a major slump as a large number of tourists prefer Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir after the introduction of heli-taxis.”
Second, air travel cost between Delhi and Himachal Pradesh is also quite high as compared to Delhi-Leh (in Jammu and Kashmir).
"Once the runways at Shimla and Bhuntar airports are expanded, air connectivity will increase, reducing the airfares too," Nanda said.
Himachal Pradesh attracts tourists from around the world, especially from Israel, Germany, Britain and several other European countries, not only for nature-based activities but also for exploring historic and ancient monasteries.
Last year, more than 8.8 million tourists, including 339,000 foreigners, visited the state. Kullu-Manali has emerged as a favourite tourist destination. Last year, around 100,000 foreign tourists visited that area.