Bhanu P Lohumi
Tribune News Service
Shimla, February 25
The tourist inflow remained sluggish during 2019 in Himachal as only 4.63 per cent increase was witnessed as compared to 2018 which was the worst year with 16.08 per cent drop in tourist arrival.
As many as 1,72,12,107 tourists — including 3,82,876 foreign and 1,68,29,231 domestic tourists — arrived in the state during 2019 against 1,64,50,503 in 2018. Despite disturbing conditions in the adjoining state of Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A, Himachal failed to take advantage and there was no significant increase in tourist arrival.
The increase in foreign and domestic tourists in 2019 was 7.38 and 4.57 per cent in comparison to 2018 which witnessed a drop of 24.29 and 15.87 per cent in the arrival of tourists. The state faced several problems like acute water shortage and bad road conditions resulting in drop in footfall in 2018 but there was no discernible improvement in 2019 too.
As per data with the tourism department, the state broke the one-crore mark in 2009 with 1,14,37,155 tourists visiting the state while the highest number of 1,96,01,533 tourists visited the state in 2017. There was a gradual increase in tourist inflow from 2009 baring 2013 and 2018 when a negative trend was witnessed.
However, these figures do not reflect the exact number of tourists as those visiting more than one places are counted separately and the number of tourists staying in illegal hotels or accommodations are not counted.
The silver lining this year was that there was an increase of 37,225 tourists in Kangra during the month of November which was attributed to the global investors’ meet organised by the state government at Dharamsala. As many as 1,31,397 tourists visited Kangra in November as compared to 9,4172 in 2018.
The statistics reflect a disturbing trend as tourism development is the main focus of the government and even during the investors’ meet, investment projects worth more than Rs 15,000 crore were signed in the sector.
There are 3,350 hotels, 1,656 home stays, 2,912 travel agencies and 1,314 guides, 899 photographers and 222 adventurers registered with the tourism department. The total bed capacity of hotels and home stay units is 91,223 and 9,144, respectively.
Himachal is a much sort-after tourist destination, The tourists prefer Dharamsala as it is the abode of Tibetan leader Dalai Lama, Shimla for being the “queen of hills”, reminiscent of British architecture, Kullu-Manali for snow and adventure and Rohtang Pass being the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti.
There is a perennial flow of tourists to “Shakti Peeths” in Kangra, Bilaspur, Una, Simaur and Mandi, known as “Chhoti Kashi” for ancient Shiv temples. The foreign tourists and adventure lovers are attracted to virgin areas of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti and Chamba.
Moreover, tourists throng to HP throughout the year, tourists from Maharashtra and Gujarat throng the state during the months of April and May, a majority of summer tourists from North and central India come in June and July while tourists from West Bengal visit the state during the Puja holidays in September and October. Winter season and snowfall attracts all.
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