It’s homestays over high-end hotels in Himachal Pradesh this holiday season
Post-Covid, tourism picks up in the hill state’s countryside as visitors from neighbouring Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi head uphill, while tourists from Gujarat and Bengal skip holiday destinationUpdated: Oct 24, 2020, 10:09 IST
At a time when the Covid-hit tourism industry of Himachal Pradesh is struggling for revival, visitors to the hill state are preferring countryside homestays over high-end hotels at popular holiday destinations.
The loss to the state’s tourism industry due to the pandemic this year has been pegged at Rs 20,000 crore. Last year, 1.72 crore tourists visited the state, while nearly 80,000 have visited Himachal so far in 2020.
With the state government opening its doors for visitors in the last week of September, tourists have chosen to spend their time in countryside homestays rather than holidaying in hotels of traditional tourist destinations of Kullu, Manali, Shimla, Dharamshala and Kasauli.
“There is hardly 25% occupancy in hotels. The losses are huge for us. With rail and air services still hit, tourists from Gujarat and West Bengal have skipped a holiday to Himachal this festive season,” says Ashwani Bhamba of the Federation of Hotels and Restaurateurs.
WEEKEND TOURISM PICKS UP IN APPLE BELT
The tourist inflow is more from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh on weekends. Hoteliers in and around Shimla are demanding the resumption of inter-state Volvo luxury bus services to facilitate visitors from nearby states.
Homestays in Mashobra, Kufri, Fagu, Narkanda, Theog, Kotgarh, Kotkhai and Rohru, all places around Shimla, are popular with tourists. Homestays near Kullu, Manali and Parvati Valley are also attracting visitors.
Many orchard owners have turned their houses into homestays. “My homestay was packed to capacity even before the pandemic struck. After the lockdown was lifted, I’ve got many queries and plan to reopen it in December,” says Atul Mehta, the owner of Deodar Cottage in Kotgarh, known for apple production. In 1916, American missionary Samuel Evan Stokes, popular as Satyanand Stokes, had settled down in Kotgarh and introduced apple growing in the area.
ECONOMICAL AND CONVENIENT OPTION
During the pandemic, tourists prefer homestays in the lap of nature as they are away from the hustle and bustle of towns. “Homestays with orchards are a refreshing retreat and becoming popular,” says entrepreneur Palak Chauhan, 22, who owns Jannat, a homestay in Mashobra, 10 km from Shimla.
“It’s safer to holiday away from cities during the pandemic. A stay in the countryside is more refreshing than a high-end hotel,” says Prashant Prajapati, a tourist from Noida, who had recently holidayed in Kotgarh.
Moreover, the homestays are economical. A room at a homestay is available for between Rs 1,800 and Rs 2,500 a night, while a room in a luxury resort costs between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 a night.
Almost every homestay has its own website with information such as the type of room, meal plans and facilities. Homestays can be booked with the help of travel agents, while guests also recommend them to friends and family. Most homestays offer breakfast, lunch and dinner according to the preference of guests and they have housekeeping staff.
According to the state tourism department, Shimla district has 433 homestays with a bed capacity of 2,676, while the entire state has 2,189 homestays with a bed capacity of 12,181.
Their popularity grew after the Himachal Pradesh Home Stay Scheme was launched in 2008 to promote tourism in interior areas of the state and decongest the towns besides providing jobs in villages.
TOURISTS VISITING HIMACHAL OVER THE YEARS
Year Indian Foreign Total
2019 1.68 crore 3.82 lakh 1.72 crore
2018 1.6 crore 3.56 lakh 1.64 crore
2017 1.91 crore 4.70 lakh 1.96 crore
2016 1.79 crore 4.52 lakh 1.84 crore
2015 1.71 crore 4.06 lakh 1.75 crore
2014 1.59 crore 3.89 lakh 1.63 crore