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Games and holidays on, Himachal finally gets a tourist high

Shimla, Thanks to the Commonwealth Games, Britons and other visitors have started thronging the hills of Himachal Pradesh, giving hope to the tourism industry that has had to weather bad climate in the past two months.With the Games drawing a large number of foreign visitors and educational institutions being closed in Delhi, almost all hotels at prominent destinations like Shimla – once the summer capital of the British – Kasauli, Dharamsala, Palampur, Manali and Dalhousie are occupied by tourists, both domestic and foreigners.Hospitality industry representatives said the influx of tourists at this point of time is mainly due to the Games, which began Oct 3 and will go on til Oct 14.’A chunk of domestic tourists is coming from Delhi due to holidays in educational institutions (because of the Games). The arrival of foreigners, especially Britons, has also increased,’ state Tourism Director Arun Sharma told.’Normally, foreigners start descending on various tourist destinations across the state by mid-September. But this time, their arrival is quite notable,’ he said, adding ‘their number would multiply once the Games are over’.D.P. Bhatia, general manager of Clarke’s Hotel here, said: ‘The arrival of foreign guests has certainly picked up. Even the response of domestic tourists is quite good. Generally, they start arriving during Dussehra holidays and after the Durga Puja festival. This time we got a good arrival from Delhi alone.’Manali, another picturesque resort, also saw a heavy rush of tourists.’This town always attracts a good chunk of tourists. But this time, there is a significant increase in footfall,’ said Gajinder Singh, president of the Manali Hoteliers Association.He said almost all the hotels in and around Manali have got 60 to 70 percent advance bookings.Mehar Chand Thakur, a travel agent based in Manali, said this month would definitely compensate for the losses incurred by the tourism industry in the past two months.’The past two months (August and September) were quite bad for the hospitality industry due to heavy rains and massive landslides. The tourists, especially the foreigners, were scared of visiting the state after the Aug 6 flash floods in neighbouring Leh (in Jammu and Kashmir).’But now most hotels are back to good occupancy,’ he added.While government hotels in Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie – apart from a host of other locations – are offering up to 20 percent discount on stay, some private hotels are also offering discounts on food and beverage.Himachal Pradesh, whose economy is highly dependent on tourism, last year attracted over 1.1 million tourists, including 400,000 foreigners.According to Shimla’s meteorological office, the weather across the state is quite pleasant with mornings slightly warm and nights quite cool.Shimla Thursday recorded a low of 12.6 degrees Celsius whereas the maximum was 23.4 degrees Celsius Wednesday. Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti district was the coldest place in the state with a minimum temperature of 4.9 degrees Celsius.

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