Holidaymakers throng Himachal hills to soak in New Year's spirit
Shimla/Manali: Tens of thousands of holidaymakers started gathering across resorts in Himachal Pradesh on Saturday to bid goodbye to 2017. Mellow sunshine and no snowfall will greet them at most of the tourist destinations till next week though.
The most sought-after destinations were Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda, Kasauli, Chail, Dharamsala, Palampur, Dalhousie and Manali and the revellers have to be prepared to sleep out in cars overnight if they did not get hotel bookings in advance.
Most of the hotels have been sold out in advance, members of the hospitality industry warned.
"Our properties in Shimla, Chail, Kasauli, Dharamsala and Manali have been almost sold out for the last two days of this year.
"Overall, the response of the tourists is good," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) General Manager Vijay Sharma told IANS.
He said most of the guests have been enquiring about the possibility of snowfall on the New Year's Eve.
Over 50,000 tourists were expected to visit the state to ring in New Year, tourism industry experts said.
The popular tourist town of Narkanda, some 65 km from Shimla, saw season's first spell of snow in December but it melted within a few days.
Shimla, known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India, is yet to receive any snowfall.
Shimla's meteorological office Director Manmohan Singh said the weather would largely remain dry with long sunny days in the state till January 4.
"The prominent hill stations have not experienced snow almost a fortnight now," Singh told IANS.
The mountain peaks viewed from Shimla's historic Ridge, Dharamsala and Palampur towns were wrapped in a thick white blanket of snow.
Manali is a magnet for holidaymakers these days owing to plentiful snow in its nearby hills.
"Nearby hills of Manali have been attracting the tourists owing to good accumulation of snow," a Manali-based travel agent M.C. Thakur said.
Aanchal Khurana, a tourist from Delhi, said: "I prefer to travel to Shimla, especially during these days when the plains are foggy and chilly and the hills are basking in the sun."
Himachal Pradesh has no tourist accommodations in far-off areas. Rural home-stays that started in 2008 were driving tourists to the interiors and that were the best option to stay.
At present, 807 home-stay units have been registered in the state. Out of these, 233 were in the Kullu-Manali region. Shimla district has 211 units, followed by Kangra 111.
The state's economy is highly dependent on tourism, besides hydroelectric power and horticulture.
The state attracted 18.45 million tourists in 2016, which is 2.7 times its population, says the state's Economic Survey 2016-17.
According to the report, the state has 2,604 hotels with a bed capacity of 70,869 registered with the tourism department. In addition, there are 787 home-stay units with a provision of 2,137 rooms.