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Tourism industry in HP 'critically ill', thanks to Covid

Tourism industry in HP critically ill, thanks to Covid
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Shimla: As the global pandemic –Covid 19 has wreaked havoc in the country, leaving thousands dead and millions struggling in the hospitals for beds and oxygen, the tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh, a mainstay of livelihood for 33 percent of the state's population, is dying an impending death.

After last year's lockdown causing an unprecedented jolt to the hoteliers and tourism stakeholders, the second wave of pandemic has forced an abrupt shutdown of the hotels, resorts and homestays.

The luxury chain hotels, which incur a huge maintenance and establishments, have no business since April 2021 following state government's move to make RT-PCR tests mandatory for the visitors, and also Covid spurt in Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, UP and Gujarat.

"The hotel industry of Kullu and Manali is on the verge of collapse because of the second wave of Covid-19. Room occupancy in hotels has reduced to less than 3 percent these days.More than a dozen hotels have been shut down as no tourists are coming," informs Anoop Thakur, president Manali Hoteliers Association.

Atul Sharma, who owns leading hotel "Apple Valley" at Kullu said "this is the worst time for the hotel industry. We had big hopes from the summer season after the tourism activity got revived in December 2020 and January 2021, we are again back to square one".

The conditions at Dharamshala and Mcleodganj are no better despite the tourists destination popular internationally on account of Tibetan Spiritual leader Dalai Lama's abode and headquarter of Central Tibetan Administration.

The Hotel and Restaurant Association had already announced that there was no point in keeping the hotels in operation as there is not even a single tourist visiting from anywhere except some people travelling for businesses or official works within the state.

All hotels would be shut till May 12.

The association has made a strong plea to the government to waive off electricity demand charges of hotels, the licence fee for the bars. There is no sale or any kind of business being done in absence of tourists.

The state capital Shimla is seeing a considerable drop in the arrivals. The hotels have no occupancies. Most resorts and homestays in the peripheral areas of Shimla like Mashobra, Naldehra, Kufri, Fagu, Theog and Narkanda, have not been visited by the tourists since mid-April.

"We don't have routine restaurant business. The people are not coming out of their homes due to Corona fires. The media reports about daily deaths and infection rate being highest in the second wave has kept the people indoors. Only those who have urgent work or going to offices, businesses and daily jobs are seen on the roads," said Sanjay Sood, president Shimla Hotels and Restaurants Association.

Manali Hoteliers Association has been asking the state government repeatedly to give a relief package to the hotel industry. The industry needs oxygen to survive or else it will be dead. The government must waive demand charges of electricity for one year and issue electricity bills to hoteliers at domestic rates, said Anoop Thakur.

He said, "We also request the government to waive the EMIs of the bank loans of the hoteliers for one year without interest. It will be a huge relief for the industry."

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