Sunday, 31 March 2013

Kullu unions, associations, NGOs to make strategy for better tourism services

Himachal Vacation Travel News

MANALI: Battered by weak infrastructure and overlooking by government, all NGOs, associations and unions of the district have decided to hold a meeting in Manali on April 10 to prepare strategy to force government to strengthen the infrastructure including roads and flight connectivity ahead of summer tourism season.

Mall Road, Manali
This is for the first time that hoteliers association, all taxi unions, various NGOs, beopar mandals, luxury coach unions, travel agent unions, adventure sports unions and all those who are directly or indirectly linked to tourism would congregate in Manali to discuss the issues pertaining to promotion of tourism. The meeting would be held under the chairmanship of hoteliers’ association president Anup Thakur.
Issues like bad condition of national highway, improvement of Manali-Rohtang road, construction of bridge over river Beas and bypass road for town, resuming flight services to Kullu-Manali, toilet facilities between Manali and Rohtang pass, provision of mobile medical service at tourist places, channelization of river Beas, exploring new tourist destinations, maintenance of Naggar-Bijli Mahadev road, permission to use Hamta road, increasing the lower limit of central service tax from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 and lowering luxury tax rate from 10 to 5% would be discussed in the meeting, Thakur said. According to sources, the enraged people would take strict action and may agitate for the demand of better facilities for betterment of tourism industry.

According to Thakur, hoteliers had discussed their problems with chief minister who had given assurance for all possible efforts from his side. “Summer tourist season is nearing and our weak infrastructure is surely going to leave a negative impact on tourists,” he said. The beautification of Mall Road that is going on at snail’s pace since last two years has also put its negative impact on the tourism. Now, executive committee of hoteliers has formed sub-committees to check the progress and loopholes in tourism industry.
A sub-committee would keep sharp watch over the issues related to roads and transport. Another committee would check the improvement in infrastructure related to the tourism. The third committee will establish coordination and publicity in all sub-committees. All these sub-committees will report to the president to take the further action.

As a large portion of the population in Kullu-Manali is directly or indirectly linked to the tourism industry and people have fed up of complaining their problems with the government individually, all unions and associations have now decided to send their message in a single voice to the government.


Don’t put ban on private taxis and cars on Rohtang road: Manali beopar mandal
MANALI: While government is busy in drafting strict regulations for traffic to Rohtang pass and littering in the area, the beopar mandal of Manali has termed plying of buses to Rohtang pass a dangerous affair and degradation of tourism standards.

Traffic on Manali-Rohtang highway (file photo)
In a letter to chief secretary, Manali beopar mandal has suggested to draft the regulation taking care of safety of tourists, tourism standards, rights of locals and employment to youths. President Amar Singh said High Court has already prohibited the movement of buses having more than 27 seats on this route, and now the recommendation of ban on all private cars and taxis on Manali-Rohtang highway would not only leave thousands of youths unemployed but plying of buses on narrow congested roads will lead to more accidents. “Monopoly of bus service will cause many problems including black-marketing, long queues for tickets, service standards and independent travelling. We have requested High Court to consider all facts so as to maintain safety and quality of tourism. We highly recommend use of permanent utensils instead of non-disposables in dhabas at Rohtang pass,” he said.

High Court is concerned about the littering on Manali-Rohtang highway and beopar mandal is ready to coordinate government to restrict the number of dhabas at a particular place in Rohtang pass. Beopar mandal has recommended removal of all food junctions up to Rohtang pass and strict policies for remaining limited dhabas at Rohtang pass. (with inputs from Sudershan Bhatt, general secretary, Manali Beopar Mandal)

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Snowfall, rain trigger cold waves in Himachal

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI/SHIMLA: With frequent spells of snowfall and freezing temperature in May end, weather in Himachal seems to have turned ‘uncommon’ which has made life miserable for both people and administration.
Snowfall in Himachal
High hills of Himachal, including Lahaul valley, are getting heavy snowfall on Thursday. Keylong in Lahaul has received 5cm snow; fresh snow accumulation at Gulaba has reached nearly 10cm while it is over 20cm on Rohtang pass. Jalori pass on Kullu-Shimla bypass is also experiencing snowfall while almost all hills in Chamba, Kullu, Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and Kangra with height more than 12,000 are receiving heavy snowfall since Thursday morning. The active western disturbances are causing rain in mid and low hills of the state. The mercury has plunged in all parts of Himachal and its freezing in high altitude areas.
Border Roads Organization (BRO) has lost its predetermined target of April 15 to open Rohtang for vehicular traffic as snowfall has again blocked a large portion of highway which was recently opened. “We had opened 32km Manali-Marhi highway from south of Rohtang and from north side it was 5km beyond Koksar. Frequent snowfall is not allowing us to work continuously and now we’ll have to remove snow from Gulaba (26km) and Koksar one more time,” BRO commander Colonel Yogesh Nair said. On other side, Baralacha-la on Manali-Leh highway is also getting heavy snowfall; BRO will restart its snow clearance operation from Darcha in Lahaul.
Snowfall on higher reaches and cold waves in lower valleys are nightmare for farmers and fruit growers. Snow in Lahaul is delaying sowing of peas, one of the two cash crops of district, apple growers in Kullu, Shimla and Mandi fear damage to apple crop which is on its blooming stage. Bringing slight shivers back, state capital Shimla experienced moderate rain all the day.
In last 24 hours, minimum temperature in Himachal had increased by 1 to 2 degrees Celsius which is again likely to drop by many notches. At 0.5 degrees Celsius, Keylong witnessed coldest night in the state. Minimum recorded temperature in Manali (7.4), Shimla (11.7), Kalpa (4.2), Dharamshala (11.6) and Solan (9.7) was higher than that of Wednesday but forecast is for even more drop in it in next 24 hours.
According to Shimla meteorological office, the active western disturbances shall bring more snowfall and rain in nest 24 hours. “Mid and low hills of Himachal may witness thundershowers and hailstorms in next 24 hours,” weatherman predicted.
Landslide at Nehru Kund
Five years after a devastating landslide had killed nearly a dozen people at Nehru Kund, 7km from Manali, another landslide on Wednesday evening has wreaked havoc in the area. Huge boulders came down on the highway and a vehicle was damaged partially. Luckily nobody was injured in the incident. The area near Nehru Kund is witnessing landslides for a decade. Manali SDM Vinay Dhiman said nobody was injured in the incident and a Tata Sumo that was plying the route was hit by a small boulder.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Manali-Rohtang highway to be one-way this summer season

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Tourists shall have to keep patience to see snow at Rohtang pass this summer season as Manali has drafted strict regulations for vehicles plying Manali-Rohtang route. If everything goes right, tourists can enjoy the panoramic journey to Rohtang only between 6am and 12 noon as vehicles before or after this time limit will not be allowed to go towards Rohtang pass.
Traffic on Manali-Rohtang highway (file pic)
Police, administration, beopar mandal, hoteliers and taxi union of Manali have prepared a strict strategy to cope with the fierce traffic jam problem on this route. In peak summer season, vehicles take five to eight hours only to cover 51-km distance between Rohtang and Manali. The problem intensifies at evening when all vehicles from Rohtang leave for Manali and stuck in narrow road for hours. Now, the plan is that vehicles from Manali can go towards Rohtang between 6am and 12 noon and vehicles at Rohtang can come back to Manali only after 12pm.
“The time table for vehicles and making highway one way will definitely help reduce the jam problems. This will make journey more comfortable, fast and also reduce the accidents and save precious time of travelers,” Kullu police chief Ashok Kumar said adding that the restriction would be lifted for the ambulances and those vehicles in emergency.
Everybody welcomed this step but police warned that those who would not adhere to the rule will be penalized with seizing of their car. Also, 10pm to 6am will be the zero traffic hours when no vehicles will be allowed on the highway. If tourists reach Manali after noon and want to visit Rohtang on the same day, they shall have to postpone their plan to next day.
It was being witnessed in Manali that some taxi operators, to make multi-trips to Rohtang in same day, were taking tourists to Rohtang in early morning and even midnight. Many tourists were complaining that taxi driver didn’t allow them to enjoy much time at Rohtang pass with excuse that they will stuck in dead traffic jam. Now the fix timing for cabs and other cars will allow tourists much time to spend in snow.
Police, tourism department and administration are also planning to take effective steps to stop service providers from duping tourists. Instructions have been issued to adventure sports organizers and snow dress lenders to hang rate-list at their kiosks.

Rohtang opens for pedestrians
MARHI (MANALI): Rohtang pass has officially been opened for pedestrians from Wednesday after installing rescue posts on either side of the pass. The expert mountaineers in posts will monitor the movement and help people in emergency.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports director Randhir Singh Salhuria said rescue posts have been installed at Koksar in Lahaul and Marhi in Kullu. “We strongly recommend people to get themselves registered in both the posts before and after cross the pass so that we can ensure their safety,” he said.
Posts will be serving until the highway opens for traffic. Rohtang pass is still covered under 30 to 50 feet of snow and temperature is many notches below freezing point.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

No flights to Himachal: Manali may see fall in foreign tourists’ arrival

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI/SHIMLA: Manali may witness a big drop in arrival of foreign tourists this year as no flight connectivity is forcing them to change their destinations, travel agents in Manali claim.
A plane at Kullu-Manali airport in Bhuntar (file photo)
Problems of high end tourism industry of Manali does not seem ending as the hill town continues suffering losses worth over Rs 15 lakh every day only due to unavailability of flights. As there is no flight operating to Kullu airport since September, the industry has already suffered losses worth over 15 crore and now dark clouds are hovering over summer season which is starting from April 15.
Travel agents say foreign clients are cancelling their tour plans to Manali for coming days. Manali travel agent association president Anil Sharma said, “Our regular clients from abroad who are in contact with us only ask for the status of flight on Delhi-Kullu route. As nobody is sure about the flight connectivity status in summer season and tourists want to be sure about their advance booking, most of the cream tourists are cancelling their plans. Very few tourists would reach here this year.”
The star category hotels in Manali are also suffering the brunt of indefinite cancellation of flights. Hoteliers claim only budgeted tourists are reaching here and many of their clients cancelled their bookings in winter season. “Nobody wants to suffer the hectic surface journey of 14 hours from Delhi. Booking in most of the luxury hotels to a far extent depends on flight connectivity,” an hotelier Rajesh Thakur said.
Tourism entrepreneurs in Manali say cancellation of only one available flight would continue causing losses worth Rs 15 lakh every day to tourism industry of Manali. As most of the high end tourists from abroad are planning their tour to Himachal for trekking and various adventure activities, the negative reply from tour operators regarding flight booking is diverting them to other destinations.
“It is amazing that the 48-seater plane that used to operate sorties to Manali never landed with empty seats. Even Kullu airport is capable of handling multi-sorties between April and July. But, nobody is interested in this sector,” Anil Sharma said.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Road to Bhrigu to reduce ecological destruction of Rohtang pass

MANALI: Being a political stage for years and having endured tonnes of polluted carbon in recent years on the cost of precious glaciers, flora and fauna, the Rohtang pass has got its substitute as Bhrigu which is likely to connect with Manali by road soon.
Bhrigu Lake in Manali
Bhrigu lake at an altitude of 14,100 feet can be a better option for tourism industry of the state where tourists can find snow round the year. Bhrigu is around 1,000 feet higher than Rohtang pass and also close to Manali. The proposed road which government has accorded its approval would be constructed from Kothi, 14km from Manali. Although Bhrigu is accessible from both Kothi and Vashisht side, but the road was feasible only from Kothi side. A small and temporary road has already built till midway by forest department and the plan is to reconstruct the same.
Three to six thousand vehicles and over 25 thousand tourists visit Rohtang pass every day in summers and help in destruction of the ecology. Many small glaciers have disappeared from Rohtang region in some decades. Given the seriousness and a writ petition filed by an unknown person with Himachal High Court, all non-Himachali vehicles have been banned from plying Manali-Rohtang pass road. The decision was criticized by many people. After opening of the Manali-Bhrigu road, which will be approximately 25-km-long in length, traffic burden will be decreased from Rohtang pass.
Manali was looking for a similar destination to enhance the stay of tourists here, who otherwise go back only after visiting Rohtang pass. The holy lake of Bhrigu was only reachable by hours-long trekking from Gulaba or Vashisht. Only adventure lovers could enjoy the panoramic view from here. Now after building the road, all tourists would get chance to explore the hidden beauty of Himalayas from Bhrigu lake, which is famous for its beautiful camping site.
The tourism entrepreneurs in Manali are happy with the plan and are waiting for its implementation. “This is the best gift that Manali has got since a long time but we shall cheer it only after completion of the project. Road to Bhrigu would definitely boost tourist arrival to Manali,” Manali hoteliers’ association president Anup Thakur said. The Him-Aanchal taxi operators union, the largest taxi union of the state, is also happy with the plan of opening road to Bhrigu. Puran Chand, president of the union, said, “Increase in one more tourist spot would increase income of taxi operators of the state.”
The only drawback of the road would be its closure during snowfall, similar to Rohtang pass. Unlike Rohtang pass where traffic jams cause headache, tourists would be able to reach snow point just after one hour drive even during summers.

Countryside tents catches fancy of tourists, replaces hotels in Manali

MANALI: An a time when number of tourist increases more than bedding capacity and mountains of Manali have mushroomed with unplanned hotels, accommodation in tents has found its own way of nature friendly stay, with over one hundred youths offering their services to tourists here.
Luxury camps in Manali
The small scale tourism entrepreneurs, mostly from surrounding villages, have set an example of innovation by providing luxury services to their guests in a nominal tariff. Tent accommodation is giving tough competition to the hotels. Gone are the days when honeymooners used to prefer staying in luxury hotels to avail the world class services and comfort. Hundreds of honeymooners are enjoying warm hospitality in tents that have been installed so close to the nature and boasts of all modern facilities.
Meet Vishal Thakur, a young entrepreneur from Balsari village, who has chosen tent service as his passion and also mode of earning livelihood. Inspired by him, many of his friends too have now adopted this business and are earning good money. “I could not own a hotel but I fulfilled my dream to host the tourists by installing variety of tents at low investment. My formula to provide luxury in tents worked well for me and now I’ve over two dozen permanent camps at Chandertal lake where hotels are not available,” he said.
Not only the luxury tents are cheaper than hotels but the rewarding advantage of tents is that they can be installed anywhere and can fulfill the need of accommodation even at those places where hotels are not easily available. Deluxe room, luxury room or honeymoon suite, one can find tents of all types anywhere in Manali. Most of the villagers have installed tents in apple orchards which helps them attract the tourists.
Another youth, Kapil Negi, has earned respect by providing well managed and clean tent service to his customers for last few years. He said, “Kids, youths and elders, tourists of all age group love their stay in clean and big tents. Most of the youths organize DJ parties, bonfire, candle light dinners and honeymoon arrangements for their guests. Our youths are earning handsome money with a little investment. Tents and cottages are the future of tourism on mountains.”
The only drawback of the tents was lack of warmth in winter months. So, most of the tents and camps provide only seasonal service. Another problem that tent and camp owners were facing was no provision of registration of their property with tourism department.

With inputs from Discover Leh Ladakh - Packages