Highway 4-laning work, exorbitant airfares keeping tourists off Kullu

Kullu, July 13

The number of domestic and foreign visitors coming to Kullu district in the past couple of years is on the decline due to the poor condition of the Kiratpur-Kullu National Highway for the past seven years because of the four-laning work, no rail connectivity and exorbitant airfares.

It is a major concern for the tourism stakeholders as the tourism industry is a major source of livelihood in the region. This year, with the summer almost over, only 594 foreign and 16,37,888 domestic tourists visited Kullu-Manali till June 30.

In the past two decades, the number of tourists had been growing steadily but there was a sudden decline in their arrival in 2018 and 2019. The number suffered a plunge amid the Covid crisis in 2020 and 2021. The people associated with the tourism industry are worried over the falling number of tourists in Kullu district after 2017. They alleged that almost nothing had been done over the years to improve the infrastructure in the region to boost tourism.

A travel agent, Anil, said that while the Centre pours in funds for the development of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East to promote tourism, it had failed to harness the potential of tourism in Himachal.

A hotelier, Kishan, said that heavy green tax is collected from tourist vehicles entering Manali, in addition to permit fee and congestion charges, to visit the Rohtang Pass, but the entire region lacks even basic amenities like toilets and drinking water. He added that the bad condition of the road between Mandi and Kullu — due to the four-laning work that has been going on for a very long time — also deterred tourists from revisiting the region.

Another hotelier, Budhi Prakash Thakur, said that the sharp increase in airfares to the valley was also behind the decline in tourist footfall. He said that while subsidised airfares were provided to Jamp;K, Leh and many states in the North-East to promote tourism, the only government-owned carrier operating here, Alliance Air, was charging exorbitant fares.

Persons associated with the tourism industry said the number of tourists might go down further if necessary steps are not taken on time by the government.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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