Travelling took a hit last year with COVID-19 pandemic looming large upon all. Several states where tourism was a major factor in the domestic economy witnessed poor times owing to the pandemic. However, things have started to change as COVID-19 is now becoming old news. With minor precautions, people have started travelling again and in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, footfalls have surged over three times this year till October 31 compared to the corresponding year-ago period.
According to data procured from the Tourism department, Himachal Pradesh witnessed the arrival of 1.28 crore tourists, including 28,232 foreigners, between January 1 and October 31, news agency PTI reported.
In the corresponding year-ago period, 41.03 lakh tourists visited the state, the data showed. The tourism and allied industry suffered immense losses during the pandemic as tourist inflow dropped 81 per cent year-on-year in 2020. According to PTI, tourist arrivals crashed to 32.13 lakh in 2020 from 1.72 crore in 2019. It marginally recovered to 56.37 lakh in 2021.
This year, the maximum number of tourists — 20.63 lakh — visited in June, while January recorded the lowest footfall at 7.69 lakh. At 30.4 lakh, tourist arrivals in the twin districts of Kullu and Lahaul and Spiti accounted for 23.8 per cent of the total footfall in the first 10 months of 2022. The report further stated that the Atal Tunnel — an all-weather road beneath the 13,058-foot-high mountain in Rohtang Pass — has emerged as a tourist hotspot. Visitors are also making a beeline to Sissu in Lahaul and Spiti.
The report quoted Amit Kashyap, tourism director and Himachal Pradesh Tourism Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) managing director, as saying, “People who were struck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak have now started moving out. Aggressive marketing by the Tourism department in vernacular languages in states such as Gujarat from where the tourist inflow was less has helped increasing footfall.” Kashyap attributed the rise in tourist inflow to marketing on television channels and multiplexes and short videos on social media highlighting unexplored destinations in the state’s 12 districts.
“We are hopeful of touching the pre-Covid tourist inflow figures by the year-end as November and December are peak tourist seasons. However, the number of foreign tourists is yet to pick up,” he said, PTI reported.
The tourist rush is picking up and Manali will be packed to capacity from December 20 till January 10, he said, adding the winter carnival starting from January 2 was another sought-after event.
Snowfall being a big attraction, gondolas in Solang, igloo stays in Hamta, winter sports in and around Manali, skiing and snowboarding courses offered by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of mountaineering and Allied Sports in Manali catch the attention of travellers, he added.