Don’t go to Shimla or Dharamshala for the Independence Day long weekend if you haven’t made your bookings yet. That is because tourist destinations across Himachal Pradesh are choc-a-block with holidaymakers, mainly from the north Indian plains, for the extended Independence Day weekend, starting Saturday.
Many hotels and guest houses in most tourist destinations in the state have been sold out ahead of the four-day extended weekend. “Most of our properties in Shimla and Dharamsala tourist circuits have been booked well in advance till August 14,” said Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corp (HPTDC) General Manager Vijay Sharma. He said the hotel occupancy rate in Shimla, Kasauli, Chail, Narkanda, Dharamsala, Palampur, Rajgarh and Renuka was almost 100%.
However, picturesque tourist resort Manali, which normally remains a magnet for holidaymakers due to pleasant weather, saw a decline in footfall. “The only reason for Manali to get fewer bookings this time is the negative publicity by the media regarding frequent landslides on the national highway linking it,” he added.
According to Tourism Department estimates, over 75,000 tourists are likely to visit the state during these four days starting with Saturday and ending with the Independence Day on Tuesday. Many were likely to manage by taking an off or leave for one day on Monday. Added D.P. Bhatia, liaison officer with Shimla-based Oberoi Group of hotels: “All our hotels are almost chock-a-block with tourists till August 15.”
Corporate executive Nikita Duggal from Chandigarh said: “The cool environs of the hills are always an added attraction at a time when it is hot and humid in the plains.” This weekend Duggal and her family have got a booking in a home-stay unit in an orchard in Narkanda, 65 km from Shimla, where apples are in full bloom.
A word of caution though for the holidaymakers. “Make sure your trip is planned well in advance. Check on general road conditions and confirm whether the roads and high mountain passes are open,” an official said. The tourists are advised to carry light woollens as the temperatures in the hills have fallen sharply due to continuous rainfall.
Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological department in Shimla, said popular tourist destinations like Shimla, Narkanda, Kufri, Chail, Kasauli, Manali, Palampur and Dharamsala have been experiencing showers almost every day. “There are chances of heavy rains at some places in the state till August 15,” he said.
Himachal Pradesh, known for its delicious apples and picture-perfect tourist spots, attracted 18.45 million tourists in 2016, which is 2.7 times its population, says the state’s Economic Survey 2016-17. According to the report, the state has 2,604 hotels with a bed capacity of 70,869 registered with the Tourism Department. In addition, there are 787 home-stay units with a provision of 2,137 rooms.