Shimla: Tourism has shortlisted three helicopter service operators for starting heli-taxi services in the state, a demand that around for a long time to upscale the tourist market in the state as topographical constraints restrict road accessibility.
The three companies vying for the heli-taxi tourist business are Mesco, Sim Sam and Shiva. The companies have already obtained permission from Director General Civil Aviation for operating such a paid service and would start operations as soon as the state enters into and memorandum of understanding (MOU) with them, said a tourism department spokesman.
For a start, the service would be on a trial basis and would use the existing network of 57 helipads in the state ferrying tourists and others, he added. Additional 10 helipads in Mandi, Kinnaur and Sirmaur districts are under construction.
Fares have not been decided but efforts would be made to keep them affordable, said the spokesman.
Though the state has three airports at Jubbar hatti for Shimla, at Bhunter for Kullu and at Gaggal for Dharamshala, but due to their short runways, larger planes are unable to used airports.
In the absence of a rail network, tourists have to jostle for road space with other traffic on the roads and the vast network of helipads is only used by the state helicopter for ferrying the chief minister and other senior government functionaries.
A heli-taxi service would also come handy in meeting the state requirements for connecting snowbound valleys like Pangi, Lahaul and parts of Kinnaur for emergency situations as well as during natural calamities, said the tourism spokesman.