Hill stations choke due to heavy tourist influx
Uttarakhand officials said that since mid-May, close to 190,000 tourists have already visited Mussoorie. Occupancy in Shimla and Manali hotels has reached 100% on weekends, Himachal Pradesh Hotel and Restaurant Association’s chairman Gajender Thakur said.Updated: Jun 12, 2019, 10:12 IST
With the country reeling under a prolonged heat wave since April, north India’s favourite hill stations are running at full capacity, even as tourists throng destinations like Mussoorie and Nainital in Uttarakhand, Shimla and Manali in Himachal Pradesh, Darjeeling in West Bengal and Gangtok in Sikkim.
Representatives of tourist associations said that the numbers this year are unprecedented, which has led to many holidayers being turned away. Local police officials from these towns are working round the clock to manage traffic.
Uttarakhand officials said that since mid-May, close to 190,000 tourists have already visited Mussoorie. Occupancy in Shimla and Manali hotels has reached 100% on weekends, Himachal Pradesh Hotel and Restaurant Association’s chairman Gajender Thakur said. One weekdays, the occupancy is 80%, he added, and advised tourists not to visit without reserving their rooms.
Himachal Pradesh has over 3000 registered hotels and at least 1,340 registered home stays. Nearly 95% of the hotels are booked till mid-June.
Other hill towns are also reporting full capacities. “Almost all rooms in hill stations such as Gangtok, Darjeeling and Kalimpong are booked. More tourists are arriving than last year,” said Samrat Sanyal, secretary of Himalayan Hospitality and Tourism Development Network.
With vehicles queuing up on the Mussoorie-Dehradun, Mussoorie-Kempty fall and Mussoorie-Dhanaulti roads, a traffic plan — one-way from Gajji bend and Spring road — has been put in place, said Bhavna Kainthola, in-charge Mussoorie police station. However, smooth movement of traffic is being hindered by drivers who have less experience of driving in the hills, she said.
Mohinder Singh, a tourist from Chandigarh who drove up to Mussoorie on the June 8 weekend, said, “After being stranded in a traffic jam on the Mussoorie-Dehradun route, we were told that there was no place to park the vehicle, so we were forced to head towards Dhanaulti, where we faced another jam.”
Authorities have been stopping vehicles on the three approach roads to Nainital— Kaladungi, Bhowali and Haldwani — as and when the parking capacity (around 2000 vehicles) has reached its limit.
Arvind Gaud, district tourism officer of Nainital said that this was the first time that the town has witnessed such an unprecedented rush of tourists in a while. He attributed it to the ongoing heat wave in the north Indian plains. “Since May 20, around 4 lakh tourists have visited Nainital. It has become difficult even to walk on the Mall Road,” he said.
“To deal with the issue in the longer run, we are working on creating more parking spaces. We are setting up a multi-level parking at the site of Ashok Cinema here with a capacity of 284 vehicles and a high tech parking space at Rusi Bypass with a capacity for 400 to 500 vehicles,” Harbeer Singh, additional district magistrate of Nainital said.
Shimla and Manali too are witnessing traffic snarls, and less parking space. “There is lack of parking space in Manali. Nearly 10,000 vehicles entered Manali last week end,” said Superintendent of Police, Kullu, Shalini Agnihotri.
The administration has deployed 120 policemen and as many Home Guards in Manali to manage the traffic.