While tourism is considered the lifeline of Himachal Pradesh as it plays a significant role in local economy, besides creating employment opportunities for the youths, the vast tourism potential of the hill state still lies unexploited due to the “apathetic” attitude of the state governments, poor infrastructure and lack of planning, feel members of the state hospitality industry.
They allege that though the governments have repeatedly announced that they would come up with a master plan for tourism development, most decisions taken either get caught up in official red tape or remain confined to paper.
The state often fails to retain tourists due to lack of basic amenities, overcrowding and poor connectivity. Haphazard construction in famous tourist destinations, including Shimla, Manali, Shimla, Dalhousie and Kasauli, is spoiling the beauty of these places, with the government turning a blind eye to such activities. People linked to the hospitality industry rue that the successive governments have failed to improve the infrastructure in the state according to the expectations of the visitors.
“Narrow roads in poor condition and congested towns are always a problem, especially as we don’t have proper air connectivity,” said Prem Sagar, a Dharamsala-based travel agent.
The government’s plan to decongest these towns and overcome the traffic problems by connecting these tourist resorts with ropeways has been hanging fire for years and the heli- taxi services started three years ago to attract high-end tourists were grounded without a single flight.
The state has also failed to exploit the religious spots. Lakhs of people visit famous Hindu temples of national importance located at Chintpurni in Una, Jawalamukhi, Chamunda, Brajeshwari in Kangra, Hidimba temple in Manali and Chaurasi temple in Bharmour of Chamba. Many tourists who come to the state to pay obeisance at these temples return immediately due to lack of facilities.
“Our government has failed on every front when it comes to promoting tourism. A festival to introduce the state’s monolithic rock-cuts temple to the rest of the world fell victim to politics,” alleged Sagar.
The Kangra valley train, which could have been a major attraction for tourists, is also in a pathetic condition, while no new destination has been identified by the government over the years.
Chamba hotelier Rajesh Kumar said the town could have been a major tourist destination had it been given national heritage status. “Khajjiar in Chamba district, also called the mini-Switzerland of India, is also crying out for attention as no efforts have been made to revive its glory,” said Kumar.
Vijender Thakur, president of Manali Tourism Stakeholders’ Association, said Kullu district was a major attraction for adventure lovers, but the government had failed to promote adventure sports by not creating proper infrastructure. With inputs from Dipender Manta, Kullu.