Himachal Pradesh has started witnessing an inflow of tourists following relaxation in COVID restrictions by the state government. In less than a month starting from June, there has been traffic of around 6-7 lakh tourists in the Himalayan state. As the number of new COVID cases started declining in the country, tourists have started thronging to the destinations like Shimla, Manali, Dharamshala, Dalhousie, Narkanda and other parts of the state.
Commenting on the tourism situation, Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department Director Amit Kashyap said, “After the government has eased the COVID restrictions, the tourist inflow has picked up. Generally, we receive over 1.3 crore tourists but the COVID-19 pandemic since the last year hit the tourism business. Last year we received only 32 lakh tourists including foreigners. This year till May 31, we received only 13 lakh tourists. But now in June after the restrictions have been relaxed, we have received 6 to 7 Lakh tourists within this period.”
“As the weather conditions are pleasant here and monsoon is delayed, people will continue to come. We have developed the SOPs for the tourists. Meetings were held with the hotel operators, tourism and travel associations. Tourism is a major source of income for the state’s economy and we are trying to revive this business. It is being ensured that the protocol is being followed,” Kashyap added.
The rising inflow of tourists can easily be felt with the vehicular traffic jams seen in places like Shimla, Manali and Dharamshala.
“I am coming from Delhi and it is been a long time we could not move out due to lockdown conditions. We have come here with safety measures. We have some plans as it is expected the third wave of the COVID pandemic will hit the country. Also, the lockdown conditions are relaxed and we wanted to grab this period to get ourselves refreshed before the third wave enters,” Nishant, a tourist from Delhi said.
Another tourist Usha Sharma who is a school teacher in Delhi said she could not go out of her home for more than one and a half years since the COVID pandemic hit the country. Now after reaching Himachal Pradesh she has been feeling invigorated.
“I am a school teacher from Delhi. For over one and a half years I have been teaching students online from home. It was for many months I could not walk out of my house. Now coming here to the hill station, I cannot express my happiness. It is very good. and I am delighted to be here. I wish there comes no COVID third wave and we shall continue coming here. There is a bit of a sense of fear but we should follow the COVID protocol,” Sharma said.
Another tourist Nidhi said, “We were exhausted staying locked in our homes for almost two years. Due to work from home, we neither met anyone nor went out anywhere. It was really refreshing traveling from Kalka to Shimla in a toy train. It is relaxing. The weather is good. Back home the temperature is above 40 degrees Celcius. I am happy to be here. We have already vaccinated ourselves. COVID protocols are being followed here. Everywhere there is temperature checking. In tourism guidelines also if you are vaccinated then you will get easy access anywhere.”
According to official data, an economy of Rs 11,000 crore is generated in Himachal Pradesh through tourism.
(With ANI inputs)
An older video shows tourists enjoying hailstorm in Himachal Pradesh