Average Stay Of Visitors Declines In Shimla: Report
The decline is attributed to traffic jams, parking woes and mushroomed growth of unregistered accommodations in and around the state capital Shimla.
The average stay of tourists in Shimla has come down from four-five days in the 1970s to one day at present, as per a report by Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association.
However, the tourists residing in unregistered/unauthorised accommodations are not accounted for, according to the report on major factors affecting the tourism and viability of the hotel industry in Shimla.
The decline is attributed to traffic jams, parking woes and mushroomed growth of unregistered accommodations in and around the state capital Shimla, which has led to a 70-80% decline in the number of average days of tourist stay in registered accommodations in the queen of hills over five decades, the association said.
Water shortage in summer, landslides on the Shimla-Parwanoo National Highway, making commuting risky during monsoons, advisories by the district administration of heavy traffic and to avoid commuting on slippery roads de-motivates tourists planning a trip to Shimla and bookings have been cancelled due to these reasons several times in the past, said a local hotelier Sushant Nag.
The association is preparing a road map for attracting tourists to increase their footfall and stay throughout the year. The Chief Minister will be appraised of the ground reality of the Tourism Industry with suggestions to create a tourist-friendly atmosphere and create new attractions in and around tourist destinations and publicise them, Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association president MK Seth said.
"The tourist arrival has increased manifold compared to the 1970s as people had more time and less push and pulls. When we calculate the mean average, the average duration decreases with an increase in the number of tourists," Tourism department, Himachal Pradesh University, head Chander Mohan said, adding that tourists residing in unauthorised accommodations being sold on cheap rates are not included in this data.
Tourist stay in Shimla town might have reduced as some visitors look for solace in rural areas and with the improvement of roads and rural infrastructure and opening of homestays, tourists stay in those belts of the district has increased, Director Tourism Amit Kashyap said.
High tax slabs and huge water & garbage charges for genuine hoteliers, and cheap unregistered accommodations (hotels, homestays and units under Bread and Breakfast scheme) being offered to tourists have also affected the industry, hoteliers claim.
Even illegal structures awaiting regularisation are selling rooms online, creating unhealthy competition. Over 350 such unregistered units have come up in and around Shimla, which are neither registered with the government departments nor listed under HomeStay and Bed and Breakfast and are operating through online portals, as per the report.
Hotels and parking slots in Shimla town can accommodate about 2,800 - 3,000 vehicles. About 40% of the space in six main parking in the town is used by the locals. Overcharging by private or leased parking has become an accepted practice, and the tourists are at the receiving end, Seth said, adding that unable to survive, the hoteliers have started giving their hotels on lease, and the leaseholders sell rooms at a low tariff to cover the lease amount, creating unhealthy competition.
The total number of registered hotels, guest houses and homestay units in Shimla district was 556, with a total of 9,530 rooms, out of which about 50 per cent are in Shimla town and periphery, as per the data of the tourism department.
As per the guidelines, the Homestay units can have a maximum of three rooms while the Bed and Breakfast scheme can have six rooms, but these guidelines are often flouted.
The tourism sector of Himachal Pradesh contributes around 7.5% to the state GDP and is one of the highest employment-generating industries. In 2021, as many as 9,52,617 tourists visited the Shimla district.