Shimla: The Rs 5000 crore hotel industry of Himachal Pradesh is feared to be bearing the impact of demonetization of currency during the upcoming winter tourism season. But the impact is not as expected with hotels already getting bookings online. Many hotels are running at 60-70 percent occupancy much before the set in of winter tourist season. On the issue this reporter had discussions with some private hotel operators as well as the Managing Director of HP Tourism Development Corporation, Dinesh Malhotra.
With a chain of 60 hotels in Himachal Pradesh, the state tourism development corporation is gearing up for the winter tourism in the state. Destination Himachal Pradesh is not only popular with tourists thronging for experiencing snow fall during the ensuing Christmas and New year holidays, but is also turning into a favourite place for people escaping from the fog stricken northern plains to sun soaked hills of the state, told Dinesh Malhotra, Managing Director of HPTDC in an exclusive interview with this reporter. He told that people experiencing biting cold in the northern states with temperature dipping to as low as 2 degrees at some places feel that Himachal Pradesh must be colder but on the contrary the weather in the state remains sunny and pollution free expect during the days of rains or snowfall. Presently the temperature in most parts of the state is almost at par with the adjoining Punjab and Haryana minus dense fog, he told.
Dinesh Malhotra told that HPTDC has the largest chain of 60 hotels to meet the needs of all budgets spread all over the state bordering Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand as well as J&K. While there are a number of gateways to Himachal from the bordering states, we experience the major inflow through Swarghat/Bilaspur for tourists from Punjab bound for Kullu/Manali, through Chandigarh/Parwanoo for tourists from Haryana, Delhi, UP etc bound for Shimla and beyond, through Pathankot to Cahmba, Khajjiar & Dalhosie, and through Kangra for tourists bound for Dharmshala, Mclaudganj, Palampur etc, and through Nahan/Kala Amb for tourists from Uttarakhhand and Haryana.For experiencing snow, he told, tourists throng Manali belt and the Shimla belt which gets good snow fall. For enthusiasts of winter sports the attractions of snow slopes is always inviting he added.
Malhotra told that they had five premium hotels viz The Palace at Chail, The Hotel Holiday Home and The Peterhof in Shimla and The Log Huts and The Castle in Manali regions. There are as many as 37 Deluxe Hotels and 18 budget hotels. The tariff range between as low as Rs.1000 to as high as Rs.18,500. In addition to these hotels, he told that the state government had issued licences for Home Stay arrangements in various places.
Almost one third of the tourist inflow to HPTDC hotels, Malhotra informed is from Delhi while West Bengal occupies the second slot with inflow of around 13 percent followed by Maharashtra with an inflow of about 10 percent. About the tourist inflow from West Bengal, he told that people from that state have a special fascination for Himachal Pradesh and especially Shimla which used to be the summer capital of erstwhile British government.
About the impact of recent demonetisation of currency in the country, he told that HPTDC was getting majority of bookings online from all over the country. He added that all the hotels and restaurants of the corporation were equipped with swipe machines for accepting payment through credit/debit cards. The cashless payments, he added were comparatively easier to handle as records were getting generated simultaneously. During the coming winter session, the state tourism development hotels, he told, remain fully occupied through online bookings. At tourism hotels, he told, the tourists get quality rooms, facility of restaurants, transparent working, open areas as well as sufficient parking spaces. With the availability of such an infrastructure the HPTDC hotels, he told were the first choice of tourists.
About the impact of demonetisation on tourism as a whole, he told that majority of hotels in the state were members of online booking ventures like ZO rooms, OYO or were getting online booking through agents. Cash withdrawals from banks and ATMs was not a big problem in the state like other states but wherever cash transactions are a must, the cash crunch may have been felt, he told