Ahead of the summer season, the tourism sector in Himachal Pradesh has received a big blow as India is witnessing a fresh surge in Coronavirus cases.
Rising Covid-19 cases has reduced tourist arrivals by almost 60 percent in the last week.
Hotels in several districts including Shimla, Manali, Mcleadoganj, and Dharamshala are receiving more cancellation requests than fresh bookings ever since reports of the second wave of coronavirus hitting Himachal Pradesh emerged.
The state government has not yet imposed restrictions on the entry or movement of the tourists, however, hoteliers claim that the spurt in the Covid-19 cases in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh has a direct bearing on the tourist arrivals in the hill destinations.
Sunil Bamba, a hotelier in Manali, says, “We had a good run during January and February 2021, but the moment fresh coronavirus cases started coming in, the footfall crashed. I had three cancellations on Saturday and one this morning. There has not been any new booking in the past few days”.
Such reports raise further apprehensions as to how the summers, which the hoteliers thought will help in compensating the losses they suffered during 2020, will impact the Himachal Pradesh tourism and hospitality sector.
Foreign travels have remained suspended since the last year. Thus, Himachal Pradesh hardly has any foreign tourists checking in at Kullu Manali, Dharamshala, or Shimla.
Hoteliers like Bamba, now feel that if the Covid-19 cases will keep increasing then restrictions will be imposed again.
“Some states like Gujarat have already made Covid negative reports mandatory for entry. Obviously, some more states will think of such measures. Then, the tourism industry is definitely going to incur losses“, says Sanjay Sood, President Shimla Hoteliers and Restaurants Association.
On Saturday, the weekend arrivals in Shimla were down by 20 to 25 percent. These are people mostly coming from Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana. Punjab is already witnessing a very high rate of Covid infection.
Una, a small district that shares its borders with Punjab is adversely hit since it has been a gateway to many districts including Kangra, Chamba, Mandi, and Kullu.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had admitted that the tourism industry being a key sector of growth, employment, and livelihood in the state had suffered the worst blow during last year.
“We are asking the people to strictly adhere to be Covid norms, especially wearing of the face masks and social distancing. The police have been asked to enforce these provisions unsparingly to break the infection cycle. One district—Una, has imposed a fine up to Rs 5000 for not wearing the mask”, he says.
The state government has closed down schools and educational institutions and banned all religious and social gatherings. Holi celebrations at public places have also been banned.
In Himachal Pradesh, the tourism sector makes up more than 7 per cent of the state’s GDP
At least 30 percent of the state’s population is either directly or indirectly employed in the tourism sector and earns its livelihood through it. There are a total of 3,200 registered hotels and about 1300 homestays in the state.