The hotel industry in Himachal Pradesh is gearing up to open for tourists from October 1 after almost six months of being shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 2000 hotels, resorts, homestays and guest houses in the popular tourist destinations of Kullu-Manali have taken a decision to resume their operations with necessary SoPs for the guests.
Tourists will also be able to book their stays in the hotels at rest of the hill stations -- Shimla, Dharamshala, McLeodganj and Dalhousie -- by the end of next month.
The development comes within 48 hours of the state government partially easing the norms on inter-state mobility of people, and goods even though mandatory registration will still be applicable to visitors from outside the state.
However, the hoteliers favour lifting of all restrictions on inter-state movements as well as opening-up of bars, which till now have not been permitted to entertain guests.
Manali Hoteliers' Association, which held its meeting on Tuesday, announced they will be resuming business and offer a ‘safe and comfortable’ stay to guests.
“We have set-out time up to September 30 for the hotel owners to make all requisite preparations and sanitations of the properties, necessary changes and procuring materials like sanitizers etc. The hotel staff will be trained to serve the guests using face masks, gloves and maintain proper hygiene,” said Anup Thakur, President, Manali Hoteliers Association.
The hotels will be made spick and span by October 1 to reassure the tourists about services free from COVID infections, he said.
A decision was also taken, says Thakur, to hold meetings with stakeholders including taxi operators, tourist guides, promoters of adventure activities and those whose livelihood is dependent on the tourists' arrival.
Local gram panchayats, which had imposed restrictions on the hoteliers on allowing outsiders, will also be made aware of the need to open-up the hotels with due precautions and safety.
The hotel business owners have asked three things have been asked from the government.
“One, the SoPs should be tweaked to make it implementable under local conditions. Secondly, there is an urgent need for setting-up a COVID care centre in Kullu–Manali. Thirdly, rapid testing of the visitors should be introduced," said Thakur.
The hoteliers’ bodies in Shimla and Dharamshala have welcomed the state government's move to relax the condition of minimum five-day booking to two days.
But Sanjay Sood, President Shimla Hotels and Restaurants Association, say a big flaw in the administration's move is not permitting opening up of the bars.
“All conditions on the inter-state movement, as decided by the MHA, should go; only then the tourists will come to relax and spend time in Himachal Pradesh. The government have opened the liquor vends but not the bars in the restaurants and hotels. The people are buying liquor from the market and drinking sitting in their vehicles parked on National Highways and waysides” he points out.
The condition of bringing the COVID test report by the tourists should also be lifted, Sood said.