As tourists bypass Shimla to reach other destinations that have recently received heavy snowfall, the local tourism sector is worried about its business.
Hotel occupancy in Shimla which is around 70% to 80% on weekends is between 30% and 40% this time.
“Snowfall in Shimla was minimal this time, which has led to a decrease in tourist influx. Instead of Shimla, tourists now prefer nearby destinations,” said Mohinder Seth, President, Himachal Pradesh Tourism Stakeholders Association.
Narkanda, a small hill town about 65 kilometers from the capital of Himachal Pradesh, has emerged as a favorite destination for snow seekers. “It was an amazing experience to be in the middle of nature. The feeling cannot be expressed in words,” said Kiran Khatkar, a tourist from Delhi who cited why she chose Narkanda as her desire to experience snowfall.
Word of mouth has drawn many tourists to the quaint hill town, located on the Hindustan-Tibet Road.
“We have visited Shimla many times, but I think Narkanda is a much better place. It was nice to be here when the place was dressed in a white blanket,” said Kolkata resident Saurabh. Another tourist from West Bengal said they went to Kasauli for a year. “But being in Narkanda was an unforgettable experience,” he added.
The boosted tourist footfall has also encouraged the hospitality industry in the area, with hotels and condominiums reporting full occupancy. Hotel Hatu of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) was also fully booked.
“Shimla and Kufri did not receive good snow this year, so tourists are heading to Narkanda and beyond,” said Dhanveer Singh Negi, manager of Hatu Hotel.
Jajinder Thakur, President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Himachal, said, “Tourists are also flocking to Kullu, which has recorded a good season so far. And out in Manali.”
The tourist arrival in Himachal last year (January-December 2022) was 1.51 crore, including 29,333 foreigners.
Meanwhile, Director of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), Sudesh Kumar Mukta, said 178 roads in Himachal, including four national highways, remain closed to traffic after snow fell at higher altitudes earlier this week. .
As many as 136 roads have been closed in Lahaul Spiti district and 32 in Chamba district. In Kullu, 10 roads have been cut off. Many remote areas are facing power outages as 238 transformers are yet to be repaired.
MeT management has forecast snow and rain across the state through January 31. Shimla MeT Center Director Surender Paul said a yellow alert has been issued for heavy snowfall and rain over medium and high hills, thunderstorms, lightning and hailstorms in the lower hills and plains on Sunday and Monday.
From January to date, the state has seen a 15% deficit in precipitation. Kinnaur district has the highest rainfall deficit of 67% followed by deficits of 39% in Shimla and 37% in both Mandi and Solan.
Una recorded 58.9 mm of precipitation against the normal rate of 37 mm, which was an excess of 59% followed by Kangra with 54% of the excess precipitation. Chamba and Hamirpur recorded 4% and 14% excess rainfall respectively.
Keylong experienced the coldest night of the season at -11.5°C, even as the minimum temperatures in other parts were marginally higher.
Kalpa shuddered at -0.5C and Manali recorded at least 1.4C. Narkanda and Reckong Peo recorded a decrease of 2.2°C each, Solan 2.5°C, Mandi 3.2°C, Una 3.4°C, Kifri 6.2°C and Dalhousie 6.5°C. Shimla and Dharamshala recorded a minimum temperature of 7.2°C.
New wave of snow and rain in J&K
The upper reaches of the Kashmir Valley recorded fresh bouts of rain and snow on Saturday.
MeT officials said a new westerly disturbance is active in Kashmir and issued a yellow warning that could lead to heavy to moderate snowfall in the next couple of days.
They said it may cause avalanches in areas prone to it and affect land and air transportation on January 30, as well as energy supplies.
In January, Kashmir received more than three bouts of snow. The upper regions have received more than 3 feet of snow this month so far.
(With input from HTC Srinagar)