Sunday, November 05, 2017

Will ‘Vikas’ give wings to Himachal Pradesh tourism?

Shimla: Vikas is the battle cry of both BJP and Congress in Himachal Pradesh which goes to the polls on Nov. 9. Each party claims that development was at its peak when it was in power in the hill state.

To each his own, but the tourism industry, the mainstay economic activity of the state, accounting for Rs 5000 crore revenue per annum, has suffered a huge blow over the years. As the industry generates direct livelihoods for thousands of people, it is a big issue in this election.

To begin with, lack of proper air connectivity has dealt a major blow to the industry. The hill state has three airports -- Jubbar Hatti in Shimla, Bhuntar in Kullu and Gaggal in Kangra district. Among the three, it is only the airport in Kangra which has daily connectivity to Delhi if only by way of smaller ATR-72s. In Shimla, there are no regular flights for days at a stretch. “All three airports do not have adequate flights. The demand for tourism in Himachal is growing tremendously but lack of flights has become a major problem,’’ says Pradeep Sharma, a travel agent.
]He says tourists are flocking to Jammu & Kashmir or Uttarakhand which have better connectivity. “Travelling for long distances in a car can be tiring, people fall sick before they reach their destination. How many people would like to drive up from Delhi to Manali?’’ he wonders.
A tourism official told Express that though chief minister Virbhadra Singh did take up the matter of flight connectivity with union aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju but nothing moved.
05/11/17 Vikram Sharma/New Indian Express