Traffic jams, poor roads hit state tourism industry
Narrow roads and frequent traffic jams at tourist places such as McLeodganj, Palampur, Baijnath and Kangra have adversely affected the tourism industry of the state.
The chief factor is the apathy of the state government, which has completely ignored the road sector, the only means of transportation in the hill state. No major efforts have been made for the widening of narrow roads in the state. The width of most of the roads in Kangra district is the same as it was 30 years ago.
The haphazard construction of hotels at major tourist places such as Palampur, Dharamsala, McLeodganj has given rise to various other problems like disposal of garbage, contamination of drinking water, pollution and large-scale soil erosion.
Despite the fact that there is vast tourism potential in Himachal, little has been done to exploit the same. Successive governments have failed to take steps for the expansion and promotion of the tourism industry.
Though Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had announced to introduce a new master plan for the development of tourism in the state, in the absence of administrative and political will most of the tourist places have been reduced to slums.
Though the state government has made tall promises time and again to provide better amenities to tourists visiting the state, the reality is that nothing has been done. Besides, corrupt traffic police and RTO officials”, costly hotels, poor parking facilities and heavy taxes have become a nuisance for tourists.
Poor transport and air services, expensive food and fleecing of tourists by taxi operators also disappoint them. Despite the orders of the HP High Court, the state government has failed to fix meters in taxis in the state. Hotel tariff in the state is exorbitant heavy as compared to other states.
The snowcapped peaks of majestic Himalayas ranges are a visual treat for tourists. The lush green tea gardens, dense forests having pines and deodar trees, river and hills are things of beauty.
The state government still has a long way to go to catch up with states like Kerala, Goa, Rajasthan, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in this field. Promotion of the tourism in Himachal is essential for its faster development as only this industry can fill the coffers of the state.
A senior official of the state Public Works Department, when contacted, said the widening of roads in major tourist places of the state is under consideration of the state government. But in most cases, the state is yet to get clearance from the Union Government as forest land is involved in these works which require the no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
Besides, the state has also planned to extend all facilities to tourists visiting the state under tourism development project funded by the Asian Development Bank. The bank has given loan to the state government for the promotion and expansion of tourism.