Bhanu P Lohumi
Shimla, April 11
Group tours from Gujarat to Shimla have registered a dip as most travel agents have dropped the city from their preferred itinerary due to transportation-related problems and heavy traffic in Himachal’s capital.
Drastic dip in hotel bookings
Only about 1,200 bookings were made by Gujarati tourists in first 10 days of April this year as against 2,600 in 2019. Travel agents are now diverting tourists to J&K and Uttarakhand. MK Seth, Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association president
“Buses are not allowed in the city during the day till 9 pm and there is no arrangement for pre-paid taxis to drop tourists to hotels. Most hotels lack parking facilities, causing harassment to tourists,” said Gujarat Travel Association joint secretary Mayank. “Thousands of tourists in groups used to visit Shimla but now we have stopped getting these buses due to the inconvenience faced by tourists,” said Mayank. Moreover, the tax on buses has been raised from Rs 10,000 per month to Rs 5,000 per day. The bus tours have become very expensive, he rued. “Last Christmas due to heavy rush, even small vehicles were not allowed in the city. Tourists were really disappointed as they were unable to visit the Mall Road, which is a big attraction. Now we are not taking any interest in promoting Shimla,” he added.
The groups from Gujarat contributed to 60 per cent of the total occupancy in Shimla during April and May. This has been reduced to about 20 per cent as travel agents have boycotted Shimla and diverted tourists to Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand, said Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association president M K Seth. Shimla was also considered a tourist gateway to the state as most tourists start their tour from the city and then proceeded to other destinations in Himachal. Seth said there was a dire need for pre-paid taxi service and parking for tourist coaches. Low lodging capacity, high rates and traffic woes in the city have led to a negative image and, as a result, the demand and queries for Shimla have reduced, Gayatri Narendram of Vivekananda Travels in Kerala said, adding that tourists now preferred Manali over Shimla.