Dharamsala is the second most popular global tourist centre in Himachal after Manali which attracts Indian as well international tourists, but the Tourism Stakeholders of Dharmshala are in deep pain because of the complete closure of Tourism related activities here for almost two years due to the Corona Pandemic. Before Corona ,In 2019, As many as 1,72,12,107 tourists — including 3,82,876 foreign and 1,68,29,231 domestic tourists — arrived in Himachal during 2019 against 1,64,50,503 in 2018. As per data with the tourism department, the state broke the one-crore mark in 2009 with 1,14,37,155 tourists visiting the state while the highest number of 1,96,01,533 tourists visited the state in 2017. But now the people connected to this industry have not seen tourists in the state , which created a huge problem for them to earn both ends meet. Sanjeev Gandhi Gen Sec Hotel and Restaurant Association Smart City Dharmshala said that two consecutive seasons have failed due to Corona Curfew restrictions and it is very difficult for the stakeholders to survive.“In the absence of the Govt support ,Majority of the units will be declared as NPA by Banks in the month of June 21 as most of the Hoteliers have no money to repay their monthly instalments and are left with no working capital in hand,” said Gandhi.Talking to PTI Gandhi added that being a Non Performing Asset , it will not be possible to meet the eligibility criteria for getting any other fresh loan.“It is getting so difficult for the stakeholders to run their household, bearing all kind of water , electricity , property tax and all renewal fees, as the Govt in spite of few assurances have not done anything to help the Industry by waiving off any of such expenses which in any case Gov't should not charge to the units which are non functional, non operative and almost close down,” said Sanjeev.He said, “ last year during the 1 st wave of Covid 19, State Govt had announced Interest subvention and working capital loan scheme for the stakeholders but because of the stringent norms hardly anyone could avail and qualify this facility .”
He added that the Tourism department of HP organized a virtual conference to meet with the Hoteliers on 19th April 2021 for taking our feedback on the scheme and reassured us of modifying the scheme for higher conversion and for the benefit of the majority of stakeholders but even after one and half month nothing has been finalized so far.The Government had announced some relief on Property tax , Electricity , water charges and all renewal fees but it is again very unfortunate that nothing has been drafted on the piece of paper and all the promises remain verbal.Tourism industry in HP already has its one foot in the grave, waiting for government’s Oxygen support .Gandhi said, “Thousands of stakeholders of various associations of f HP State, taxi operators unions, Trekking Guides, Tenting & Eco and Adventure tourism operators, travel agents, horse riding owners etc have continuously raised their concern with the request to the Govt to help but Himachal government is ignoring the requests of this industry. We have written various letters in the last one year addressing the PM , FM, CM and Governor RBI to prioritize our sector and to announce some Tourism package / relief to the Industry but all our efforts are in vain.”In the absence of any concrete step / desired help by the Govt, many Hoteliers in the town / State have decided to sell their units for their survival.“We again request the Govt for not ignoring the Tourism sector which is one of the major employment provider, revenue generator and one of the major contributor in the State GDP and must announce some attractive package with waiving off all their yearly renewal fees , electricity ,water ,property tax charges and announce HP as the Tax holiday State for next two years to revive the Tourism industry in the state,” said Sanjeev Gandhi.Himachal was a much sort-after tourist destination, The tourists prefered Dharamsala as it is the abode of Tibetan leader Dalai Lama, Shimla for being the “queen of hills”, reminiscent of British architecture, Kullu-Manali for snow and adventure and Rohtang Pass being the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti through Atal Tunnel.