Shimla/Kullu: A non-scheduled airline ‘Air Himalaya’ having launched the Chandigarh–Kullu–Chandigarh flights; Himachal Holidays Pvt Ltd in collaboration with IIC Technology Ltd, Hyderabad, promoters of the new venture, are now to conduct a test flight on the Kullu-Dharamshala-Kullu route.
“In order to attract high end tourists and to promote tourism in the state we are making an effort through these non-schedule airline operators to connect the entire region with these flights, said Major Vijai Singh Mankotia, vice chairman, HP Tourism Development Board in a communique stating that the test flight between Kullu and Dharamshala was being tried out.
The test flight was being conducted by a 9 seater Cessna Grand Master Cervan Aircraft. Air Himalaya, a subsidiary of Himachal Holiday Pvt Ltd is a company founded by Budhi Prakash Thakur, an orchard owner in Kullu – Manali valley.
When Hill Post caught up with Budhi Prakash Thakur, he said, “Many tourists want to visit Kullu-Manali as it is one of India’s most famous tourist destination. Though most of the tourists come here by road but it is a tiresome and time consuming journey for those who don’t have so much time to spare. If a good quality air connectivity is provided, it would encourage more high end tourist to visit Kullu-Manali. As far as today’s trial is concerned, it was successful and within a few days regular flights on the Kullu- Dharamshala route would be started. This is just the beginning , and if all goes according to plan, then we will be able to connect Kullu with other towns or cities too.”
Mankotia added that the state was proposing to take up with Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India the necessity to air link Dehradun-Shimla and Dharamshala-Jammu-Leh-Ladakh.
Though the state recorded 1.75 crore tourists, which included 4.06 lakh foreigners, who visited the state in 2015, but many high end tourists give the state a miss because of there being no regular flights to important tourist destinations.
The state has about 2600 registered hotels and most tourists who visit the state have to travel mostly by road.
Despite there being 3 small airports and many helipads in the state, this expensive aviation infrastructure is grossly under utilized as there are not many regular flights and practically no helicopter services, barring the sole state helicopter used by the chief minister or those used by Indian armed forces manning the India China border.