The Department of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh has released a notification on 19th March 2020 that bans tourist inflow into Himachal Pradesh with immediate effect till further orders. Officials of different districts which have entry points into the state have separately been instructed to check the entry of every vehicle. Vehicles carrying tourists are to be sent back while residents of the state/kith and kin should be allowed with details of vehicle number, name of the owner/driver, and purpose of journey and further destination to be maintained in a register.
The locals, Panchayat Committee members, and owners of hotels and home-stays of Spiti had already conducted a meeting on 16th March 2020 to finalise the decision of closing their businesses till 30th April 2020, and not allowing any outsiders (tourists, workers, etc.) to come in or stay in the region from 17th March 2020 onwards. People already present in the area were given 3 days to leave.
The Tirthan Conservation and Tourism Development Association held a meeting on 16th March 2020 and announced closure of their businesses in Tirthan and Jibhi till 31st March 2020.
On 19th March 2020, the Manali Hoteliers Association announced that after 3 days, all activities in the region will be stopped till 31st March 2020.
Tsering Bodh of Sakya Group in Kaza proudly informed that the Spiti community took the lead in stopping tourism activities in their region much before everyone else in the state. He informed that as per usual practice, adequate stock of essentials are already present with the locals, and fresh vegetables being sourced from Kinnaur district are running as per normal routine. He reiterated that the Spiti community are not excessively business minded so they are not taking the loss of bookings too hard on their hearts or minds.
Sanjay Verma of Great Himalayan Outdoors has already gone back to his village Deola in Shimla district. He informed that quite a lot of bookings for the peak tourist months of April, May and June have had to be cancelled but one’s health and life are more important. He hopes that the situation will improve and the bookings for July-August that have been presently kept on hold will materialise. According to Sanjay, most of the people associated with the tourism industry have gone to their villages. Various hotels in Shimla were waiting for official government notifications before shutting down. Sanjay’s unique insight was that it might be a little difficult for the virus to affect the the villagers of Himachal, who are physically very active all year round, who consume the purest forms of food, and who breathe the fresh air all the time, and hence have high immunity.
Mohan Prakash Negi, president of the Kinnaur Hotels Association informed that they have decided to close the hotels from 20th March 2020 till 31st March 2020. He informed about the massive number of bookings that have been cancelled, and conveyed his concern that that the tourism industry has gone into a downward trend and will take a really long time to recover. As Mr. Mohan Prakash also owns orchards in Sangla, he informed that the labourers from Nepal and Bihar who are a major help for these agricultural activities are being screened at Chaura check-post with thermal scanners. The local agriculturists have requested the local administration to abstain from harassing the labourers while taking adequate care of screening them.
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