Shimla: Aspiring to develop new destinations, the state government is intent upon focusing on infrastructure; mainly better connectivity, to improve Himachal’s standing as a preferred tourism destination, top government functionaries here stated.
Talking to reporters Major Vijay Singh Mankotia, who assumed charge as vice-chairman of tourism development board a month ago, today said, “because of its scenic locations, our state holds immense opportunities but accessibility and lack of good roads, a reliable air connectivity and practically no railway network are the biggest bottlenecks to develop tourism.”
There are no flights for Shimla as the airport is under repair; only one flight to Kullu, which has a capacity of handling five flights in a day; and only two flights for Dharamsala (Gaggal airport), he said.
He added that plans of starting heli-taxis services has been drawn up, new destinations in Rajgarh-Haripurdhar-Churdhar, Pabbar Valley-Chansal peak, Jhatingri-Barot-Bir-Billing would be promoted but to promote tourism the most emphasis would be on improving roads.
The state unique selling point (USP) remains the Himalayas and the sheltered scenic locations that we have and trade specialists – travel agents and tour operators would be approached to gain a better tourism share for Himachal, said Mankotia.
Speaking about the recently held tourism development board meeting that was chaired by chief minister Virbhadra Singh, he said that concern was expressed at the unplanned growth in Shimla, Manali and Dharamsala that was turning into a liability for tourism.
Civic amenities are simply not keeping pace with the growth in tourism, he said, while mentioning that all, residents and tourists faced huge traffic jams in these destinations and during peak seasons, water shortages was the order of the day.
With there being a number of Shaktipeeth temples like Naina Devi, Brijeshwari Devi (Kangra), Chintpurni and Jwalamukhi temples in Himachal, the vice chairman said that linking it to a interstate circuit terminating at Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu held vast pilgrimage tourism potential.
Another area of focus would be a Buddhist circuit, which involved Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and Ladhak. “This could develop as a Himalayan triangle circuit just like Delhi Agra Jaipur – golden triangle circuit,” said Mankotia.
Presently the state was implementing a tourism project being funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and projects worth Rs 198 crore needed to be executed by June 2017. The second tranche of the Rs 570 Cr project would only be released after showing progress in implementing the project’s first phase.
Constructing multi-storey parking spaces, developing wayside amenities and beautification of The Mall Road and renovation of Town Hall Shimla were part of this project, stated Mankotia.