White Christmas eludes Shimla again

December 24th, 2008 - 2:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghShimla, Dec 24 (IANS) A crystal-clear sky in this tourist town in Himachal Pradesh Wednesday morning once again dashed hopes of partygoers of celebrating a White Christmas.For the past 17 years, snowfall on Christmas eve in the summer capital of the British has been eluding the locals and tourists. It was 1991 when the city last witnessed 49 cm of snowfall on Christmas Eve.

According to the meteorological office here, the weather is likely to remain dry during the next three days.

“The weather during the next three days will remain dry with nice sunny days,” meteorological department director Manmohan Singh told IANS.

The state’s tourism industry is already passing through a bad phase this year due to an untimely monsoon, a prolonged agitation by the Gujjar community in Rajasthan, the global financial meltdown and then the Mumbai terror attacks. And now it isn’t hopeful of cashing in much on the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

“The recent terror attacks has once again severely affected Shimla’s tourism sector with the number of foreign tourists visiting this place recording a sharp decline,” said Dinesh Gupta of the Himani chain of hotels in Chandigarh, Shimla and Solan.

He said the season’s first snowfall in Kufri, just a half-hour drive from here, Nov 20 had infused some life into the tourism industry.

“Since then, most of the travel agents and hoteliers have been selling the concept to the people in the plains to witness a White Christmas in the hills. But warmer days ahead dashed their hopes,” Gupta said.

However, certain elite hotels like Oberoi’s Clarke’s say they don’t believe in marketing the theory of a ‘White Christmas’.

“More than a decade has passed since Shimla witnessed heavy snow on the big day (Christmas). Now tourists, mostly from northern states, are coming just to enjoy weekends and holidays,” Clarke’s Hotel general manager D.P. Bhatia said.

This time many tourists are heading to popular tourist resort Manali in Kullu district due to early snowfall there.

The 13,050-feet-high Rohtang Pass, which is just 50 km from Manali, and its nearby areas received moderate to heavy snowfall in the past few days.

“This time the tourist arrival is quite good as compared to the previous years due to early snowfall near Manali,” said Mehar Chand Thakur, a prominent travel agent in that city.

He said on phone that most tourists were visiting the Solang valley and Kothi, which are close to Manali, to see snow.

Last year, more than 8.8 million tourists, including 339,000 foreigners, visited Himachal Pradesh. Shimla emerged as a favourite destination among domestic tourists as over two million people visited the town in 2007.

Kullu and Manali have emerged as hotspots for foreigners. Last year, around 100,000 foreign tourists visited the two towns and the region around.

Tourist arrivals in Himachal last year surpassed the state’s population of about 6.5 million.

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