Manali: Breaking free from COVID forced lockdowns and rising summer temperatures, revenge travel has seen a rising tide of tourists rush to the cooler climes of Manali.
On Sunday, a record of 6400 vehicles passed through the Atal Rohtang Tunnel. Trends indicate it could cross 8000 vehicles in the next few days. “This is the highest single-day traffic recorded till date,” said Manav Verma, district police chief of Lahaul-Spiti.
Connecting Kullu-Manali valley with Lahula valley, the tunnel after 10 years of construction was only opened on 3, October 2020.
To control the heavy traffic police have had to enforce no-overtaking zones and tow-away zones. Special parking places have been marked and traffic violations are being booked with heavy
“Manali is a small town with limited carrying capacity,” says Sanjeev Kumar, a police officer tasked with managing the traffic. “We have to regulate tourist vehicles as per available carrying capacity.”
Other than the 9.02 Km long Rohtang Tunnel, other tourist hotspots are Banjar, Tirathan, Manali and Lahaul – Spiti. Hotel occupancy has jumped but is yet to peak,” says Budhi Prakash Thakur, convener, Hotel and Restaurant Association Forum. On weekdays it is 40-45% and for weekends it increases to 60 to 90%, he said.
Withdrawal of the condition of a negative RTPCR report and e-Covid pass to enter Himachal Pradesh has given a boost to tourist arrival at most sort after destinations.
However, the increased numbers have posed a challenge for maintaining COVID safe distance protocols and could trigger the third wave of coronavirus infection.
“We notice that a majority of tourists are wearing masks and adhering to COVID protocols,” said Anant Sharma, a tourist. He along with his family members has come from Gurgaon. Escaping from the heatwave in Delhi, Mohit Verma says, “Manali is a great escape destination.”
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.