Long weekend brings tourists back to flood-hit Himachal
Hotel occupancy in tourist towns of Shimla and Manali increases from 5% to 60%, reviving hopes of hoteliers, tour operators
After a devastating monsoon, the long weekend has come as a relief for Himachal Pradesh’s tourism industry. Hotels in Shimla and Manali, the hardest hit among tourist towns, saw an uptick in occupancy. While Shimla saw 60% occupancy, Manali hotels reported 40% occupancy during the three-day holiday period.
With the weather improving, the state government resumed Volvo bus services to Manali four days ago. The move proved to be a lifeline for local hotels. Manali hotelier Mukesh Thakur said, “After the flood ravaged this town in July and August, our hopes of tourism revival were crashed. We thought that it would take months to see a revival as tourists had begun preferring Kashmir. But now, the footfall is gradually increasing.”
Sachin Kumar, a taxi driver in Manali, echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s good for all that tourists are returning to Manali. On Sunday, there were 60 Volvo buses in town.”
In July and August, unprecedented rainfall wreaked havoc in the state, causing landslides, flash floods, and damage to property. As many as 481 people lost their lives, while 40 have been missing in rain-related incidents since June 24.
Kullu, Manali, Kasol, and Shimla bore the brunt of damage to infrastructure during the monsoon that hit the state’s ₹20,000-crore tourism industry. Hotel occupancy in tourist towns fell to less than 5% during the rainy season.
The situation was dire in Manali as a portion of the four-lane highway leading to the town was washed away by the floodwaters of the Beas and many stretches were damaged by land subsidence and slides. Hotel owners in Manali are offering discounts ranging from 15% to 30% in a bid to draw more visitors.
Mohinder Seth, the president of the Shimla Tourism Stakeholders Association, said the past three months have been challenging in the state capital, too, but the weekend rush was a sign of recovery.
Train services from Kalka to Shimla are back on track after 76 days. The Unesco heritage track, which has 102 tunnels and 988 bridges, was repaired at 175 locations before the train service till Taradevi station was given the green signal. Rail officials said the track would be fully restored by next week as a bridge was destroyed in the landslide at Summer Hill in Shimla in the middle of August. The rail ministry sanctioned ₹15 crore for the repair and restoration of the track.
The Travel Agents Association of Himachal Pradesh has also been offering discounts of 25% to 30% on tour packages. It has waived charges for children up to 12 years accompanying their parents on these trips.