Parwanoo choked as tourists throng Himachal after Covid curbs eased
Himachal Pradesh cabinet’s approval to do away with mandatory RT-PCR test for visitors to the state has brought smiles for the pandemic-hit tourism industry, which is hoping to recover its losses.
As many as 2,300 vehicles crossed Parwanoo barrier on Saturday and more than 3,000 vehicles entered Himachal on Sunday. There as about 2km-long queue of vehicles at the Parwanoo border where the tourists get themselves registered. Majority of the tourists were from the neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi and Uttarakhand.
The Cabinet that met on Saturday had given its nod to remove the condition of RT-PCR test for the tourists. The ₹17,000 crore tourism industry is in doldrums after the outbreak of Covid last year and has borne heavy losses due to restrictions imposed to the check the spread of respiratory disease.
The tourism economy in Himachal Pradesh contributes to 9% of state’s GDP. According to conservative estimates, the hospitality industry has borne more than ₹1,500 crore losses ever since the lockdown was imposed in the state while more than two lakh persons employed in the hotel industry have gone jobless .
The peak tourist season for Himachal Pradesh starts in April and end in June.
“The hoteliers are under tremendous financial stress as majority of them have run out of capital expenditure required for running the business. At least now, we have started getting inquiries,” said MK Seth, president Himachal Pradesh Tourism Stake Holders’ Association.
“The entry to the state without negative report is a good step taken by the government. Our association welcomes the decision. This will definitely give relief to the tourism sector because a good number of tourists are expected to arrive in coming days,” he said.
Tourism is gradually picking up and the hoteliers are hopeful that more tourists will visit Himachal following the restrictions on the entry are fully removed after June 14.
“Tourists have started to book hotels , we are expecting more rush in coming days,” says Anup Thakur, president, Manali Hoteliers Association. “We are hopeful that this tourist season will prolong because people in the plains are crazy to come to Himachal after three months of lockdown-like situation wherein they were compelled to remain in their homes only,” says Shimla Hoteliers and Restaurateurs Association president Sanjay Sood.