The four months of Coronavirus-induced lockdown in Himachal Pradesh have hit the state's tourism sector hard. Now with the businesses and other activities gradually reopening across the country, the state government is attempting to revive the tourism sector. However, the hoteliers are in a dilemma -- torn between the fear of Coronavirus spread and uncertain about the footfall of the tourists in the hilly state in the times of pandemic.
Though few hoteliers at Shimla, Dharamshala and Manali have resumed their limited operations, a majority of them are not taking the risks. Another factor that stops the hoteliers from resuming their business is the resistance by locals against allowing tourists from other states.
“As of now, we have decided to wait till mid-September or till a vaccine is launched. The situation is still volatile. No one is willing to take a risk of venturing out at a time when Covid-19 cases are rising each day," says Sanjay Sood, President Shimla Hotels and Restaurants Association.
Apart from the hoteliers' reluctance, the fear of travel, restrictions on travel and free movements and other government guidelines hold back the tourists, thus depleting the chances of tourism industry's revival in the state.
According to a government guideline, the tourists are required to pre-book the hotel for a period of at least five days -- another factor in negligible footfall of tourists in the state.
“We want the state government to lift guideline of five-day booking for tourists. It should be reduced to two or three days. Lot of people come with their families on weekends or for a maximum of two days," says Yatish Sood, who owns Chelet’s Nardehra, a luxury resort Shimla’s outskirts .
Sood says the businesses should reopen to keep the employees' jobs secure.
Tourism sector accounts for Himachal Pradesh's significant economy. The sector alone contributes to the State GDP around 7 per cent. With the industry down for the past more than four months, the state's economy is taking a hit.
However, a majority of the hoteliers seem in no hurry to to resume business. They argue that the peak season for tourists, summer, has already passed in the lockdown. The tourists will now begin to arrive around September–October.
These hoteliers have urged the state government to waive their electricity and water bills, sewerage tax and other dues.
Director Tourism, Yunus, when contacted said: “We are keen that tourism activity must resume. It involves livelihood issues of a large section of people in the state. A detailed SOP has been framed, and circulated to the hoteliers. Many hoteliers have started bookings but majority is still in shut down.
“The government can’t force the hoteliers to reopen. It’s up to them to take a call as it’s their private business. We can only facilitate things,” Yunus told Outlook.
The local Panchayats in many districts including Kullu and Kinnaur have passed resolutions opposing the opening of hotels, pointing out that the move will lead to the further spread of the infection.
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