Tourism downturn in Upper Dharamsala prompts hoteliers to seek alternatives


According to The Tribune, The once bustling tourist hubs of McLeodganj, Bhagsunag, and Naddi in upper Dharamsala have witnessed a sharp decline in footfall since the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020. As a result, many hoteliers are faced with the difficult decision of putting their properties up for sale or lease. According to data gathered from local hoteliers, approximately 70 percent of properties in McLeodganj and Bhagsunag are currently being offered for lease.

Sanjeev Gandhi, the general secretary of the Dharamsala Hotel and Restaurant Association, attributes the decline in tourism to various factors, including poor infrastructure. He highlights the longstanding issue of inadequate road conditions leading to frequent traffic jams, especially during peak tourist seasons. These traffic congestions have earned the region a negative reputation, deterring potential visitors from choosing it as their destination.

The leasing rates for hotel properties have also plummeted significantly, with rates dropping from Rs 3 lakh per room per year to just Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh per room per year. Despite the reduced rates, there is still a lack of interest from potential lessees, prompting many hoteliers to consider selling their properties instead. Social media platforms are inundated with advertisements for hotels and resorts available for sale or lease.

However, there remains hope for a revival in tourism as the government devises plans to attract both national and international tourists back to Kangra district. RS Bali, Chairman of HPTDC, expresses optimism about the forthcoming state government initiatives, which are expected to rejuvenate the tourism sector in the region.

Ashwani Bamba, president of the Kangra Hotel and Restaurant Association, acknowledges the challenges faced by hoteliers, with many properties becoming non-performing assets during the pandemic. The prolonged downturn in tourism has left owners grappling with financial burdens, making it difficult to recover from accumulated debts.

In addition to infrastructure issues, the decline in foreign tourist arrivals has also been a contributing factor. McLeodganj, often referred to as Little Lhasa, has historically attracted a significant number of foreign tourists, while Dharamkot has been a preferred destination for Israeli tourists. However, the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and geopolitical conflicts, such as the Israel war, have led to a sharp decline in foreign visitor numbers.

Despite the challenges, stakeholders in the tourism industry remain hopeful that concerted efforts to address infrastructure shortcomings and promote the region’s attractions will help revitalize tourism in upper Dharamsala in the near future.

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