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Safety issue: HP hoteliers stay off till Aug-Sept

Shimla: "We should not consider opening tourism in Himachal Pradesh till we have normalcy in the domestic and International air traffic, and all inter -state borders restrictions are lifted." This was broad consensus evolved at a high level meeting convened by the state government with hoteliers and tourism stake holders' bodies on day 2 of unlock 1.0 in Himachal, a state with tourism as biggest source of economic activity.

Sanjay Sood, president, Shimla Hotel & Restaurant Association, says, "we have conveyed to the state government that there is no possibility of resuming the operations immediately. Safety of the tourists, visiting the state, is paramount to promote Himachal Pradesh as Corona-free destination.

"The cases of Coronavirus are still on the rise in several states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Punjab etc. We should not consider opening hotels till at least end of August or September, unless we have a vaccine to cure Covid," said Sood. The representative bodies of the hoteliers from Manali and other tourists destinations also were of the same view that any move to resume the tourism operations at a time when the virus was still posing threat will be highly counter-productive.

Himachal's tourism sector is biggest loser during the pandemic. Infact, the hoteliers themselves have told the government to stop entry of the tourists to the state when Coronavirus was declared as global pandemic in March 2020–ahead of the lock down.

The state government, though has allowed the hoteliers to start bookings but has imposed restrictions on starting commercial operations, or entertaining non-resident tourists. Secretary (Tourism) Devash Kumar when contacted said "the state government is serious to allow tourism sector to resume its operations. Thus, took suggestions of the stake holders. The hoteliers, however, are in no hurry to start the business due to coronavirus scare, and also their concerns about safety of the state. They want two or three months time to get themselves ready to be back in the business." One point the hoteliers highlighted with the state government was to help in preparing the SOPs for the hotels and also get the staff trained properly to work under new normal conditions, and taking care of the guests, also staying themselves safe.

"We will work on it and respond to the call as it is very important issue," said secretary (Tourism). The hoteliers, however, rejected the idea of 'quarantine tourism' mooted by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.

"We from the Industry do not feel it will be a good step for tourism in Himachal Pradesh. This could be unsafe for the employees, our properties and most important our citizens in towns and villages," said Sood.

Now that Himachal Pradesh looked in better position as compared to other states, such a step will be a grave risk in the long term marketing of Himachal Pradesh as safe destination of all seasons. The hoteliers suggested for aggressive marketing of the tourism potential.

"I suggest if we look to boost tourism in Himachal Pradesh say in August or September, we should start marketing our beautiful state for wellness tourism, adventure tourism, environmental tourism, cultural tourism, heath tourism, religious tourism, Culinary tourism," he suggested.

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