Shimla/Manali, Dec 25 IANS | 2 years ago

Thousands of holidaymakers have booked hotel rooms across Himachal Pradesh to enjoy the Yuletide spirit, and their footfalls are likely to continue till the onset of New Year, members of the hospitality industry said Wednesday.

"We are daily getting a number of enquiries regarding the possibility of snowfall in Shimla, and the surrounding hills in the next few days. But the influx of the tourists has suddenly surged with the recent snow," D.P. Bhatia of Clarke's Hotel here said.

He added: "We are hopeful this trend would continue till the last day of the year."

Over 50,000 tourists are expected to visit the state on Christmas, tourism industry experts said.

"Almost all our hotels in Shimla, Dharamsala and Manali are full. Of course, this week's snow has boosted the tourism business, which was otherwise passing through lull," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) general manager Yogesh Behl told IANS.

He said most of the tourists were heading to Shimla, Narkanda, Manali, Dalhousie, Dharamsala, Palampur and Sangla in Kinnaur district.

The popular tourist town of Narkanda, some 65 km from here, has good accumulation of snow, whereas Shimla, known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India, is bereft of snow.

Shimla's meteorological office director Manmohan Singh said destinations like Kufri, Narkanda, Manali and Kalpa still have good snow cover.

Shimla, Manali, Dalhousie, and their surroundings received the season's first snowfall Dec 22.

The Met Office's forecast said a Western Disturbance - a storm system originating from the Mediterranean-Caspian Sea region and moving across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region - would be active in the western Himalayas from Dec 26 with chances of snow in higher reaches only.

The mountain peaks viewed from Shimla's historic Ridge, Dharamsala, and Palampur towns were wrapped in a thick white blanket of snow.

Manali remains a magnet for holidaymakers due to plentiful snow in the town and its nearby hills.

"The tourists are enjoying skiing and snow-scooter rides in nearby hills of Manali," a Manali-based travel agent M.C. Thakur said.

"From the queries, we are expecting a good number of tourists till New Year's eve," he added.

Palvi Gupta, a tourist in Manali from Delhi, said: "Every year I travel to Manali to enjoy snowy landscape."

The state economy is highly dependent on tourism, besides hydroelectric power and horticulture.

Himachal Pradesh got 16.1 million tourists last year, including 497,850 foreigners, a state tourism department report said.

At present, 2,169 hotels with a capacity of 55,928 beds are registered with the state, it said.

(Posted on 25-12-2013)