P A L A M P U R : Despite the fact there is vast tourism potentials in Himachal Pradesh, it is most unfortunate that little has been done in past to exploit the same . Tourism which plays an significant role in the economy of the state, is now facing rough whether, thanks to the apathy of the state government which had not bothered to develop the tourist attraction places of state in a planned manners. Haphazard construction of hotels at Manali, Dhalousie, Shimla and other places in the state has given rise to various problems, like disposal of garbage, contamination of drinking water, pollution and large scale soil-erosion.The frequent traffic jams has become a regular feature here. It is a sad state of affairs that the tourist traffic to these places has come down considerably in past two years. This year there was over fifty percent fall in the tourist traffic to Manali, Mandi, Dharmsala and Dhalousie. Although the state government has time and again announced to come out with a new â€œMaster Planâ€ for the development of tourism in the state, but all remained confined to the official files and in past ten years most of the tourists place in the state have turned into slum.
Government has been making tall promises to provide better amenities to tourists visiting the state, but in reality nothing has been done. What welcome the tourists in Himachal Pradesh â€œcorrupt traffic police officialsâ€, costly hotels, poor parking facilities and heavy taxes. Besides, bumpy roads with narrow width, poor transport and air service, expensive food and fleecing of tourists by the taxi operators also hurt them. The hotel tariff in Himachal Pradesh is quite heavy as compared to other states.
Besides, the deteriorating law and order situation in religious centers of the state and sudden rise in the cases of rape, theft and murder has adversely affected the pilgrimage tourism particularly in northern parts of the state. In Chintpurni and Kangra alone one dozen cases of murder and rape were reported in past one year. The victims were the tourists from outside the state. In fact the state has no check on such activities causing great inconvience to the tourists here.
Himachal Pradesh has enormous tourism potential. It matches Switzerland in its scenic beauty and climate. The snowcapped peaks of majestic Himalayas ranges are visual treat. The lush green tea gardens, dense forests having pines and deodar trees, river and hills are things of beauty which give joy for ever. From Tabo to Chamba Himachal Pradesh was and is a wonder state rich in natural resources, natural beauty, variety of region weather climate, diversity of culture, people languages, food dress and customs. The state is also known for the historical architectural monuments. Not only this the ancient temples and forts are strewn all over the state. The temple situated in Mandi, Kulu, Manali,Kangra, Chamba and other parts of the state are just one aspects of the state to interest and attract he tourists.
It is most unfortunate that the state government has failed to understand that the significance of tourism in Himachal Pradesh. State has long way to go to catch up with the front ranking states in this field. It is an established fact that the promotion of the tourism in Himachal Pradesh is essential for its faster development, because of the fact that tourism industry can fill the coffers of the state since it is an important revenue earner and also a good source of foreign exchange.
In past ten years much stress was laid on the development of few places like Shimla, Manali, Dhalousie etc as major tourists centers. Today these places are over crowded and on way to becoming slums. Domestic as well as foreign tourists hesitate to visit these places. Many other places like Hat Koti, Bahrmor, Sngala,Massroor, Barot, Renuka, Parashar and Bir are yet to come up on tourist map of the state. State government has failed to involve private sector in this important field. HPTDC a state government undertaking has virtually has failed to deliver goods in the absence of proper planning policies. Increasing political interference in its affairs has made the matter worse.
Merely sprinkling of luxury hotels, that too in most unplanned manner, will not be enough in this endeavor. No doubt the hotels are also needed but there should also be a provision for the entertainment of tourists. The cultural programmes, dance, music and exhibitions of local art culture should also be part of our tourism policy prepared for the development of tourism in the state which can also expose our rich cultural heritage, its variety and grandeur.
The Himachal Pradesh Hotel Owners Association is also not happy with the state government. A local hotel owner and member of the association says that despite repeated requests of the association, no step were initiated to reduce the rates of luxury tax levied on the hotels in the state. Besides, electricity terrify is also being charged on the commercial rates. He says a full fledged Tourism Department has been created by the government, but it has failed to prove to the expectations of the hotel industry of the state. While taking major policy decisions State Hotel Owners Association is never taken into confidence. A policy of pick and choose has been adopted by the department in past five years which has caused huge loss to the tourism industry as well as to the state exchequer.
The Writer Mrs. Neelam Sood is president of a voluntary social organization â€œ SAVE PALAMPURâ€.