Omicron begins to cast shadow over Himachal tourism industry

Though Himachal hasn’t reported a single case of Omicron infection, the tourism industry is anticipating tough times; tourists have started to cancel their advance bookings
A hotelier in Dharamshala said the Omicron variant had definitely hit the tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh. (PTI File Photo/ Representational image)
A hotelier in Dharamshala said the Omicron variant had definitely hit the tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh. (PTI File Photo/ Representational image)
Published on Dec 10, 2021 02:24 AM IST
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By, Shimla

Badly hit during the first and second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism industry which has started to recover again fears losses due to the emerging Omicron variant as tourists have started to cancel their advance bookings.

Though Himachal hasn’t reported a single case of Omicron infection, the tourism industry is anticipating tough times.

After two years were lost to the pandemic, people involved in the travel and hospitality sectors were expecting good business this winter season. However, they are seeing their hopes being dashed again.

“Tourism was the worst hit in the last two years due to the pandemic. The industry was slowly coming back on track in the last two months but now the new variant has created a fear among tourists and we are also worried it would hit our business,” said Sanjay Sood, president of Shimla Hoteliers’ Association.

He said tourists have started to cancel their advance bookings as the variant has been reported in India also.

This would not only hurt the business but also result in job loss as it happened during the first and second wave, he said.

“Tourism in Himachal is the worst-hit sector. We were gradually on the path of recovery but the Omicron threat has made the visitors wary now,” said MK Seth, president, Himachal Pradesh Tourism Stakeholders Association.

Meanwhile, tourists coming to Himachal are also extra cautious after the Omicron cases reported in Delhi.

“We have come from Karnataka. We were also scared before travelling but we decided to come here,” said Amit Kumar, a tourist from Mumbai.

“Local residents have an impression that the tourists must be carrying the virus. However, we are taking extra care while travelling,” he said.

Tourism is said to be the backbone of Himachal’s economy. The sector contributes 12,000 crores to the state’s economy annually which is 7% of Himachal’s GDP.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, roughly two crore tourists, domestic and foreign, would visit Himachal every year.

In 2020, the number dropped to around 32 lakh. This year the number was expected to rise, but the new variant has created a scare among the industry people.

As per the tourism department data, the state has nearly 6,000 registered hotels, homestays and guest houses state.

In 2019, the state had witnessed a jump of 4.63% in tourist arrival. A total of 1.72 crore people visited the state that year of them over 3 lakh were foreigners. This year so far 40,98,592 tourists visited Himachal Pradesh in October while only 3,972 foreign tourists visited Himachal. Maximum tourists visited Kangra, which is also famous for its ancient temples, total 1,82,423 tourists visited Solan, which adjoins Haryana and Punjab, a total of 2,72,048 tourists visited the district. The majority of the tourist visiting Solan were domestic from Haryana, Chandigarh and Punjab.

Vijay Inder Karan, a hotelier in Dharamshala, said the new variant had definitely hit the tourism industry.

“We are getting walk-in tourists from the neighbouring states, but there are no bookings. Many bookings have also been cancelled. We have already suffered a lot due to Covid. There is a fear among people that it may result in another lockdown which means no business and jobs loss,” he added.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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Friday, January 28, 2022