Shimla: Hundreds of holidaymakers once again started gathering across resorts in Himachal Pradesh on Monday with the partial lifting of Covid-induced interstate travel restrictions after over a month and a half.
Members of the hospitality industry said the most sought-after destinations after partial lifting of the restrictions on the first day were Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda, Kasauli, Dharamsala, Palampur, Dalhousie and Manali.
Most of the hotels in the state capital have been seeing less than 15 per cent of the occupancy, an official with the state tourism department said.
He said by weekend the occupancy could reach between 70 per cent and 80 per cent, a good business.
"The occupancy in our property is around 20 per cent on the first day. We are expecting to do a good business in the weekend," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) Manager Nand Lal, who is posted in Holiday Home hotel here, said.
According to him, most of the tourists prefer to stay on the outskirts like Mashobra and Kufri rather staying in Shimla, known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India.
But a word of caution for the holidaymakers. The police have advised them to follow the protocol as threat of COVID-19 very much looming.
The state has made mandatory e-registration for all travellers entering the state from Monday midnight. It has only relaxed the mandatory RT-PCR negative report and home quarantine for the interstate travellers.
The statewide curfew will remain imposed daily from 5 pm to 5 am. Only intrastate public transport would be allowed with 50 per cent occupancy.
Priya Grover, a senior executive with a Chandigarh-based multinational company, said: "It is really pleasant to be back in the hills of Shimla after a long break."
Her husband Prashant added: "We are coming here every year to spend a few days when the plains are sizzling. Thank god for giving us the opportunity to enjoy cool climes."
Shimla's meteorological office Director Manmohan Singh said the south-west monsoon reached the state on June 13, in its earliest onset in the past 21 years. Its normal arrival in the state is June 26.
"Most of hill stations likely to experience widespread rains on June 15 and 16," Singh said.
Anoop Thakur, Manali Hoteliers Association President, said most of the hoteliers are back to business after a long break when the arrival of tourists had almost stopped and hotel bookings vanished as the state closed its borders and imposed lockdowns.
Manali and its nearby places support no less than 1,500 hotels, lodges and home-stay accommodations that had witnessed a downturn since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in the late March in 2020.
Justifying the reopening of state borders for the outsiders, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur told the media that the government has removed the mandatory condition of carrying the negative report of RT-PCR to enter the state. "But we are ensuring that nobody can flout the norms to check the spread of the coronavirus."
Thakur said free interstate movement has been allowed throughout the country.
"We have also decided that the people visiting the state would be monitored through registration in Covid e-pass software. All the persons desirous to enter the state are now required to enter their particulars on the online software and details of their arrival were being shared with all stakeholders concerned," he said.
Issuing a warning to the hoteliers to strictly follow the standard operating procedures, the Chief Minister urged the tourists to adhere to the guidelines and wear the masks and maintain social distancing.
Himachal Pradesh has no tourist accommodations in far-off areas. Rural home-stays that started in 2008 have been driving tourists to the interiors and that are the best option to stay and enjoy the virgin nature.
The state's economy is highly dependent on tourism, besides hydroelectric power and horticulture.