Despite the swine flu scare, major holiday destinations in Himachal have reported full bookings for the August 15 weekend. Shimla, Kasauli, Chail, Dharamshala and Dalhousie hotels have reported full bookings. The weekend bookings have started from Thursday till Sunday with heavy influx of tourists being expected. Independence Day weekend has become a major occasion for the tourist trade in the hill state for the past few years as Delhites prefer to move out during this period due to heightened security status. Also, families traveling on long weekends have now become a trend. Having proximity to Delhi and very less VIP movement during this period, Himachal becomes the first choice of travelers escaping Delhi. Fortunately, Himachal has not reported any swine flu case till now, making it a safer destination to travel.
Shimla hotels have reported almost 100% bookings. Hotels around Shimla in Naldehra, Kufri, Chail and Kandaghat have also reported full bookings. Kasauli hotels had declared sold-out status earlier by the last week of July. All major hotels in Dalhousie too have reported full bookings. Ashish Chadha, of Hotel Grand View, Dalhousie, seemed excited about Dalhousie getting sold out a week in advance. “August 15 weekend is a big relief for hoteliers in the middle of off season. Most of the bookings starting from Thursday will help generate revenue for the next 4 days as all hotels are full in Dalhousie till Sunday,” he said.
Advent of information technology and online banking too has helped hoteliers in exhausting their room inventories faster. Buddhi Prakash Thakur, owner of Sarthak Resorts at Manali said, “My resort is 7 km from Manali town but I have gone full on Monday. E-mail communication and online banking makes the entire process of confirming rooms much faster. We no longer depend on local guides and touts to fill our rooms.” Internet is playing major role in hotel sales in Himachal. Major online travel portals like MakeMyTrip, Yatra and others have considerable number of hotels listed on their website and provide complete solutions for hotel reservations. HPTDC, the state government hotel chain, also has a full fledged online hotel reservation facility on its website and all HPTDC hotels can be booked online.
All major trains are waitlisted till Saturday from Kalka. Taxi operators too are looking for busy four days ahead. This tourist rush will also see an upsurge in the earning of the guides and porters who double up as guides in the city. Some of the Kashmiri tourist guides are already back in Shimla for the weekend tourist rush.
Though, this weekend has brought smiles back on faces of people associated with travel industry, Pawan Thakur at Hotel Landmark, Shimla, quipped, “All this excitement is just for four days. This shows how much we are dependent on seasonal business in Himachal Pradesh. We need many more long weekends to overcome the slump of off season.”