Shimla, Feb 25 IANS | 10 months ago

The arrival of tourists in Himachal Pradesh's remote Lahaul and Spiti district during the winter peaks in October, says Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.

The arrival of tourists, both domestic and international, in Lahaul-Spiti, dominated mainly by the tribals, was almost nil in January and February in the past three years.

This fact came to light in a written reply given to legislator Ravi Thakur in the recently concluded assembly session.

It said occupancy rate of tourist accomodation was 25.81 percent in October 2012. It was 19.63 percent and 17.54 percent in October 2011 and 2010 respectively.

In this month in 2012, the bed nights spent by the foreigners were 7,468, whereas it was 5,343 by the domestic tourists.

But in the last two months of 2012, the occupancy rate was 14.86 and 6.60 percent respectively.

However, in March and April 2013 and 2012, it was less than one percent, while it was 5.22 percent and 15.66 percent respectively in 2010.

To promote tourism in Lahaul-Spiti and other tribal areas, the state government is providing luxury tax exemption, said the chief minister, who also holds the tourism portfolio.

He said the tax exemption is only for those hotels which have commenced operations from April 1, 2012. This exemption is for 10 years from the date the hotel opens.

Lahaul and Spiti district is populated mainly by tribals. The climatic conditions are harsh as much of the land forms part of a cold desert where the mercury drops below minus 20 degrees Celsius during winter.

The Buddhist-dominated district in the Himalayan terrain at elevations ranging from 15,000 to 20,000 feet above sea level attracts globetrotters not only for nature-based activities but also to ancient monasteries like Tabo and Dhankar.

The district has no town; the population is rural, spread across 521 villages.

The Lahaul Valley, some 350 km from state capital Shimla, remains cut off due to heavy snow accumulation in the Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet) -- the only connection with Manali in Kullu district.

(Posted on 25-02-2014)

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