Manali: Tourist footfall in Manali has drastically dropped as compared to pre-Covid years despite an influx of visitors during the weekends due to the state’s failure to publicise its lesser explored destinations and tourists making a beeline for other attractive destinations in neighbouring states.
The tourism industry, which is the mainstay of Manali’s economy and a source of livelihood for lakhs of youth in the town, paints a gloomy picture. The tourist township is witnessing a tourist rush only on weekends. The number of weekend tourists is generally from the Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
Trade experts hold that the hotels in Manali have witnessed a sharp fall of about 60 -70% in April in comparison to the occupancy for the month in the years before the Covid outbreak.
“The hotel industry has been facing financial hardships for the last three years,” says Mukesh Thakur, president, Manali Hotel Association. “We were expecting a revival this year, he adds, but low occupancy has left the hoteliers a worried lot.”
The key factor leading to a fall in tourist arrivals in Manali is that it has failed to publicize its lesser explored destinations. “There are several beautiful landscapes in and around Manali town but tourists are unaware of these places due to lack of publicity,” said Suresh, tour and travel operator in Manali.
With the opening of Atal Rohtang tunnel that provides a safe access to Lahaul valley and beyond to Ladakh, Manali has fallen in stature to become like a transit camp for tourists headed further north. Tourist stay duration in Manali has all dropped.
Tour operators say that one factor that led to arrivals dropping is that tourist coach buses coming from Gujarat and Maharashtra were facing entry issues into Himachal. Another reason was that tourists during peak season days face a lot of traffic problems which was forcing them to explore other regions.
This year, there is a drastic decline in tourist arrival from Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal, who otherwise used to regularly visit Manali. Tourists from these states now prefer to visit Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
The hospitality industry in Manali has demanded that the government work with tourism stakeholders to find a solution for increasing the stay period of of tourists visiting Manali.
“We request the tourism department to publicize places of interest around each tourist destination of Manali to increase the stay of tourists,” said Mukesh Thakur. The tourism department could launch effective media campaigns and showcase new locations, organise road shows and also present virtual tours to connect up with potential tourists, he added.
Tourism stakeholders are still hopeful for good business during the months of May and June as the schools in the neighbouring states will be closed for summer vacations.
Kullu-Manali Prayantan Vikas Mandal has requested the district administration to open the Rohtang pass for tourists as they visit Manali to get a glimpse of snow. After the government opened the Atal Tunnel, there have been less tourists visiting Rohtang pass.
“We have requested the government to open Rohtang pass for tourism. District administration says the road is dangerous but wasn’t it dangerous when the tunnel was not thrown open for tourists ?” said Anup Thakur, president Kullu-Manali Prayatan Vikas Mandal.
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.