The prolonged heat and dry spell in the plains has led to an exponential increase in footfall of tourists in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, say members of the hospitality industry.
The tourist season this summer has been extremely good. As per the field reports, there has been an approximate increase of 20-25 percent in the tourist inflow to the state compared to the last year, Tourism Director Mohan Chauhan said Sunday.
He said all hotels in major tourism destinations registered almost 100 percent occupancy during the peak tourist season.
"In monetary terms, most of the tourist destinations are hoping to bag a record revenue due to an increase in the inflow of tourists during the summer season, which is now an extended season," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corp (HPTDC) general manager Yogesh Behl told IANS.
He said the response of the tourists is good because of persisting sweltering conditions in the plains owing to delayed or irregular monsoon.
Behl said with the onset of monsoon, normally in the first week of July, the occupancy rate at most destinations like Shimla, Kasauli, Chail, Narkanda, Manali, Dharamsala and Palampur comes down to 40 percent.
"This time, it's between 50 and 60 percent on normal days and on weekends it's more than 80 percent," he added.
Chauhan said last summer registered a decrease in tourist inflow due to a major natural disaster in neighbouring Uttarakhand state and a calamity in Kinnaur district of Himachal.
"The travel agents and tour operators, who played a major role in promotion of tourism, discouraged the tourists to visit Himalayan states," he said.
Priyanka Mathew, a tourist from Delhi, said: "What a pleasant relief from the prolonged heat spell in the plains."
She said she extended her stay in Shimla for two days.
Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological department, said popular tourist destinations like Shimla, Narkanda, Kufri, Manali, Palampur and Dharamsala have been experiencing pleasant weather these days.
"Though the monsoon in the state is deficit by over 46 percent, most of the areas are getting mild to moderate spells of rain at regular intervals, bringing down temperatures to comfortable levels," he said.
Manali remains a magnet for holidaymakers due to pleasant weather.
Hotelier M.C. Thakur, who is based in Manali, said monsoon-less July in the plains has set the cash register of tour operators and hoteliers ringing.
"Last year's loss (due to natural disaster in Uttarakhand) is this time's gain," he added.
State-run HPTDC is going to add bonanza to the extended tourist season by offering 20-35 percent discount on room tariff in its hotels across the state from July 15.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh last week said the government might develop a ski resort at Chanshal near Rohru in Shimla district besides developing the Bashal Kanda (near Sarahan) area for which the tourism department has been asked to conduct a survey for constructing ropeway.
"Developing ski resorts for sports lovers and tourists would be the next priority," he said.
He said there was enough scope for adventure tourism in Chamba, Sirmaur, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts.
The hospitality industry contributes 9.75 percent to the gross domestic product of the state.