The hospitality industry in the hill state has hit a major hurdle as all the flights to and from Himachal Pradesh have been suspended for over a month now. It has started affecting the tourism sector.
The tourism industry is one of the major sources of income for the state but as the flights to all the states have been suspended, day-trippers could opt for other destinations in the neighbouring states during the coming festive season, especially Christmas and New Year.
The state tourism and civil aviation officials informed that Kingfisher was the only airline that operated regular flights between Delhi and the state. However, it discontinued operations in the state before it was grounded in October.
All the three airports in Himachal - Jubbarhatti in Shimla, Gaggal in Kangra and Bhuntar near Kullu - have been shut since September and if the authorities failed to open those, it will severely affect the tourism sector of Himachal Pradesh.
"We are facing huge loss for the past one month as the flights have been suspended. The inflow of foreign tourists who visit the adobe of Tibetan Spiritual Leader the Dalai Lama has come down significantly," said Ashwani Sharma, a hotelier at Dharamsala, adding that the loss will be more during Christmas and New Year.
Former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh has also taken the issue with union minister for civil aviation Ajit Singh in New Delhi on Thursday, apprising him about the problems the state is facing after the closure of the airports.
"Virbhadra Singh met the union minister and discussed the problems being faced by travellers. He urged him to introduce Air India flights at all the three airports in Himachal. Singh has also requested to rope in some private airline if Air India is not able to operate flights," a statement quoting Virbhadra Singh said.
Officials at Gaggal Airport said the flights were expected to resume by November 25. However, the date was not confirmed as the private airline has extended the date several times in the past one month.
Meanwhile, State Tourism and Civil Aviation director Arun Sharma said that the department was also trying to convince private operators to start services in the state.
"We are trying to convince some private operators but it also depends upon the Director General of Civil Aviation that whether the airline is granted permission or not," said Sharma.
He said, "The state government has plans to develop a world-class airport in the state to give a boost to the tourism industry."