For the beleaguered hospitality industry, the brisk business reported by hotels at the tourist hotspot of Kasauli will come as a relief. Indeed, Himachal Pradesh was among the states that had imposed a complete ban on the entry of outsiders after the outbreak of Covid-19, even as an exodus of the workforce — mostly on foot — took place from its industrial hubs like Baddi amid the shutdown. For a state where tourism is the mainstay of the economy, the influx of visitors will mean a fresh lease of life. With travel restrictions being eased, tourist arrival is expected to increase as educational institutes are yet to reopen fully and the weather remains conducive for a visit to the hills.
The lockdown meant hardships for the hospitality industry. At many places, hotels offered to turn themselves into quarantine centres, faced with the prospect of maintaining the property, paying salaries and repaying loans. In Uttar Pradesh, which saw the return of migrant workers in large numbers, tourist places like the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort have now been opened to tourists, with restrictions in place. Besides the economy, the other aspect has been about people getting confined to their homes amid the lockdown for a long period of six months, with restrictions on social gatherings and movement only complicating the situation, depriving them of opportunities for human interface. The opening up of the tourism sector may well offer an opportunity to break out of this confinement.
But there is still some way to go before the situation gets reversed. Transport services are yet to reach their optimum, though the Kalka-Shimla toy train made a special run for the NDA exam candidates. Tourist arrivals have mostly been from neighbouring states, unlike in the past when international travellers would also arrive in large numbers. The industry has to put in place technology to fight the virus without charging excessive tariff and highways and cities will have to contend with traffic jams and pollution. The climb back to normalcy remains an uphill task.