Shimla: Rains may play spoil sport for tourists heading to the hill destinations and hoping to make the most of the long weekend beginning with Holi, the festival of colours on Thursday. Members of the hospitality industry estimate nearly 50,000 tourists, mainly from the plains of north India, are likely to make their way up to Himachal Pradesh during the four-day long weekend. "Our all three properties in Shimla have been sold out for the next four days," Oberoi Group's Clarkes Hotel's general manager D.P. Bhatia told IANS on Wednesday. Harnam Kukreja, president of the Shimla Hoteliers and Restaurants Association, said most of the tourist destinations on the outskirts of Shimla like Kufri, Mashobra, Naldehra and Chail are also expected to remain bustling with tourists and visitors. State-run Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) is currently witnessing more than 80 percent occupancy in all its hotels in the state.
Shimla, known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India, is witnessing balmy days and chilly nights these days. But a word of caution for the tourists as the Met Office in Shimla predicts rains in low and mid hills and snow in higher reaches of the state. The tourists are advised to carry woolens as the temperatures in the hills nosedived sharply even with a drizzle. Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological department, said popular tourist destinations like Shimla, Narkanda, Kufri, Manali, Palampur and Dharamsala may experience showers as the western disturbance would be active in the region from March 24 to 26. Manali remains a big attraction for holidaymakers. Hotelier M.C. Thakur, who is based in Manali, said the long weekend has set the cash registers of tour operators and hoteliers ringing. Almost all the hotels in the town have got over 60 percent advance bookings. "Sunny days and less harsh winter makes our holidays perfect," Divya Sanyal, a tourist from Mumbai, remarked while enjoying sightseeing and outdoors things in Shimla. Her husband Mukul said this is the best time to visit the hills when the harsh winter has receded. Higher reaches in the Kullu-Manali region, including the Pir Panjal, Brighu, Chaderkhani and Hampta, have already been experiencing night temperature close to sub-zero. Even some of the mountain peaks viewed from Shimla's historic Ridge have been wrapped in a thick white blanket of snow. Tour operators have been advising tourists to plan trips to Narkanda, Dalhousie, Dharamsala, Palampur and Sangla. At these destinations, the tourists can at least enjoy the view of snow-laden hills. The tourism industry contributes 7.2 percent to the state gross domestic product. Currently, the state has 2,416 hotels having bed capacity of 67,097, besides 662 home stay units having 1,838 rooms. Himachal Pradesh last year attracted 171,250,45 domestic and 406,108 foreign tourists.