With a footfall of over 1.72 crore tourists including 5 lac foreigners Himachal Pradesh garnered a revenue of Rs 8,288 crore from tourism during the last financial year (2015-16) which was over 7.5 per cent of the state’s GDP, told Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation Managing Director Dinesh Malhotra, in an exclusive interview with Millennium Post Editorial Consultant Vijay Kumar Verma.
You told that 50 per cent of the tourism activities thrive on religious tourism. What this vast potential comprise of?
The state has five of the country’s nine shaktipeeths (seats of religion) as well as the famous seat of Buddhism as the Dalai Lama’s government in exile at Mclaudganj. The religious spots are the source of tourism that attract tourists round the year specially during the festive seasons. The five shaktipeeths in the state namely Chintpurni, Jawalaji, Brajeshwari Devi, Chamundaji, and Naina Devi are located in close vicinity around Kangra district bordering Punjab.
The Tibetan temple at Mclaudganj near Dharmshala is the Budhhist seat of worship and frequented by foreigners as well round the year. Another Budhhist temple built in the memory of Budhhist saint Guru Padamsambhava is located near Rewalsar in Mandi district where the Guru had meditated for long in the 8th century before setting off his journey to Tibet.
What adventure tourism potential the state holds?
The state has vast potential of tourism related activities throughout the year. It is blessed with spectacular mountain ranges and river valleys making it a suitable outdoor adventure playground. There are many untapped potentials in adventure tourism in the far flung areas of Kinnaur and Keylong as well as Manali.
The Corporation would not be directly involved in organising such activities but would regulate the activities through professionals to ensure safety and security of tourists. Himachal Pradesh is also known as the ‘Paragliding capital of India’. The towns of Bir and Billing in Kangra district are popular places for paragliding.
The state offers excellent opportunities for enthusiasts to indulge in hair-raising and spine tingling adventure sports like rafting on the gushing waters of Beas and Satluj, skiing on the endless snow slopes of Rohtang valley, trout fishing in snow cold water besides motoring and biking on the vast inviting roads for thrill. Hang gliding and hot air ballooning and ice skating are also popular winter sports in the state.
Attracting a large number of tourists round the year, what is the USP of Himachal Pradesh?
Climate is the major USP (unique selling point) of Himachal Pradesh which attracts tourists not only during the summers for cool escapes from the sweltering heat of plains but also clear sunny days during winters when northern plains are overcast with thick fog.
What varied categories of tourists throng the state?
The tourist inflow could be divided into categories like religious tourism, which account for nearly half of the inflow, adventure tourism attracting the youngsters as well as the foreigners, weekend tourism from the nearby plains of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, summer tourism for people looking for long breaks and winter tourism as attraction for the snow sports. The data collated on tourists reveal that the largest number of tourist inflow is from Delhi followed by West Bengal and Maharashtra rather than the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab.
How HPTDC and the department of tourism promote Destination Himachal Pradesh?
Himachal Tourism Development Corporation in the state had been established to provide quality and comfortable respite to the visitors, as well as promote tourism. The corporation owns as many as 60 hotel properties including 5 premium hotels spread all over the state. Besides, there are 11 cafes owned and operated by the state tourism department at various places. Despite highly competitive rates and high costs of establishment and maintenance, the Corporation was in profit, the Managing Director revealed.
What other initiatives are being taken by the government to promote tourism?
Action at war foot has been taken for four- laning all the major national highways running through the state, though the present two lane roads too were also in a very good state. The road from Kalka to Shimla as well as the road from Kiratpur to Manali and beyond was being four- laned at a great speed to provide ease of driving to the hill towns.
To mitigate one of the major problems of the travellers that of parking facilities in Shimla, was being taken care of with rapid construction of a parking lot.