Kashmir, this time of the year is brimming with holiday makers, and Himachal Pradesh is sure to gain from neighbour's spillover. After a lull - the hill state is now witnessing a sudden boom in the tourist flow.
With hotels in Kashmir fully sold out, tourists now prefer to visit the tranquil hill states to get respite from sweltering heats in the plains.
“Hotels have been fully booked for now and the next month,” managing director of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Corporation (HPTDC) Subashish Panda said.
The state-run tourism corporation has in total 58 units scattered around the state - which has a total 1,075 rooms with total bed capacity of 2,332.
“This time, the tourist season started late as the time of summer vacation for schools in plains areas was changed,” said Yogesh Behl, general manager, HPTDC.
Ripped by militancy in the past, tranquility in Kashmir has been a big draw with tourists. Himachal Pradesh is now a second preference next to Kashmir.
In the past one week, hotel bookings have gone up in major tourist destinations in Dalhousie, Shimla, Dharamsala, Kullu and Manali.
“Though the tourist influx has increased in the past one week, its remains a fact that tourists still prefer Kashmir more than Himachal Pradesh,” feels Anup Thakur, president of the Manali Hotels and Restaurateurs Association.
The hospitality industry feels that bad roads and delay in resumption of regular flights to the state also had adverse impact on the tourist flow.
“This time of the year, Manali usually witness heavy tourist rush. However, this is not the case this year. The condition of roads leading to this hill station is so bad that a tourist, who visits once, does not prefer to have a bumpy ride again,” says Thakur.
“Delay in resumption of flights led to diversion of tourists to Kashmir,” observes Ashish Shashni, an hotelier in Manali.
“Had flights started earlier, the tourist could have planned to come to Manali in advance,” Shashni added.
A tour and travel agent, Gurudesh Chandel, said, “The tourist inflow has increased since last week. Tourists from metro cities are also arriving in Himachal for package of five to seven days. Besides, weekend tourists are also arriving in Himachal, especially at Shimla. About 5,000 to 6,000 tourists arrive to Himachal daily on a routine day, while rush increases in the weekend.”
“With temperature soaring above normal in plains the tourist season has picked up in Kangra valley after a lean in April. Though most of the hotels in twin hill town, Dharamsala and McLeodganj, are already booked, more rush is expected in June after the school holidays start in neighboring states,” said Ashwani Sharma, an hotelier in Bhagsunag near Dharamsala.
To woo the tourists in many areas, the tour operators have planned different packages.
Subash Nehria, a tour operator, says that they are selling tour packages which include lesser-known destinations. “We have planned tour packages according to the tourist rush. We recommend our clients to stay in the tourist destinations in the outskirts of the town as Dharamsala and McLeodganj are already jam-packed and tourists may face problems finding accommodation these days,” said Nehria.