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Leh floods dip foreign tourist footfalls in Himachal

Manali, Aug 20 (Calcutta Tube) The closure of the National Highway-22 due to the flash floods in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir has affected the tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh, with a dip in foreign tourist arrivals in the picturesque Manali town and nearby tourist spots.

‘The arrival of tourists, especially foreigners, has certainly dropped in Manali and its nearby areas after the flash floods in Leh,’ District Tourism Officer Rajeshwar Goel told IANS.

He said the travel advisory issued by Britain asking its citizens not to travel to Leh and the closure of the Leh-Manali and Leh-Srinagar roads to motor vehicles has led to the slowdown in tourist arrivals.

Himachal Pradesh last year attracted 11,437,155 tourists, of whom 400,583 were foreign nationals.

Backpackers, especially from the US, Britain, Italy, France and Germany, come to Manali from August to September every year for adventure-related activities like trekking, rock-climbing and cross-jungle trekking.

Most of them prefer to drive down the 475-km-long Manali-Leh highway.

Dev Raj Sharma, senior manager of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC), said almost all foreign tourists this year have cancelled their bookings for the luxury bus service that operates between Manali and Leh.

‘Even those who reserved their berth for September have sent us cancellation requests. Most of the cancellations were from Britain, the US and France,’ he said.

The HPTDC’s Manali-Leh bus service has been suspended after the floods damaged the highway connecting the two major tourist hubs.

Gajender Thakur, president of the Manali Hoteliers Association, said the tourists this year were not interested in the Manali-Keylong-Kaza trans-Himalayan Buddhist circuit.

‘This year the rains are plentiful, resulting in poor road and air connectivity within the state. The condition of NH-22 became so bad that most of the time it remained out of bounds due to frequent landslips between Manali and Keylong. Even the road connectivity between Keylong and Kaza remains disrupted most of the time at several points. This all also discouraged the tourists,’ he said.

The Buddhist circuit in Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts remains closed for the tourists for more than five months a year due to heavy snowfall.

The meteorological office in Shimla said popular tourist destinations of Shimla, Kasauli, Dharamsala, Manali, Chamba, Dalhousie, Kalpa and Keylong have been experiencing normal rainfall this monsoon season, compared to a 40 percent deficit in 2009.

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