No raft is floating on the rivers, skies have no paragliders, the rugged terrains are missing the ATVs, challenging Himalayan trails have no hikers and nobody is skiing down the backcountry slopes in Himachal. With tourism around the world coming to a standstill, the adventure tourism industry of the state has also been hit hard, leaving thousands jobless.
Not just the hoteliers, thousands of people operating adventure tourism have been left jobless by the Covid-19. Himachal has emerged as a top adventure tourism hub of the world where adventure enthusiasts from around the world come for all kind of activities. Paragliding, rafting, mountaineering, skiing, heli-skiing, ATV rides and almost every adventure activity is available in the state. As tourism is expected to take many more months to come back on the track, thousands of adventure activity operators are worrying for their future.
“All the industries have been hit by the Covid-19 but tourism industry has suffered the most. The agriculture, horticulture, construction, trades and all industries are returning to normalcy one by one. But the tourism will take a long time to resume. All the adventure activities too have come to a grinding halt. Thousands have lost their jobs. Now everybody is looking at government for relief,” Adventure Tour Operators Association president Roshan Lal said.
Adventure tourism in Himachal has become a multi-crore industry that runs almost round the year except for monsoon season. It has become one of the largest employers in the state. May and June are the peak season when lakhs of tourists try hand at various activities in the state especially in Kullu, Shimla, Kangra and Chamba districts. The state has all the activities except for bungee jumping. The government was to start setting up world’s highest bungee jumping near Marhi at altitude of about 11,000ft this year.
Manali Paragliding Association president Chaman Lal said, “We used to be so busy these days. Paragliding was a must do activity in Kullu-Manali. We don’t know how long it will take for us to fly again. We are praying almighty to finish the current crisis so that we have a fresh start.”
River rafting was another activity that became very popular in the state in a short time period. Lakhs of tourists used to experience the thrill of rafting on the challenging rapids of Himalayan rivers. The all-terrain vehicles, snow scooters, horse riding, zorbing, kayaking and all service providers are now jobless. Not only Indian but foreigner tourists also used to throng Himachal for trekking and climbing. This particular industry may take a longer time to come back on the track.
Besides these activities, hundreds of people earn a livelihood by renting out snow dresses, shoes and skis to the tourists. All shops shall remain closed until state and national borders are opened to tourists. All know that this tourism season in Himachal has been destroyed completely; the concerned business owners now seek government help.
“I think we will be the last to start our business after Covid-19 crisis are over. Our work will start only after free movement of the tourists will be allowed. At this moment, we know that this is not possible for the safety of everyone. We have to cooperate with the government, but we also need some help to sustain our families,” a snow dress and ski renting shop owner Sanjeev Singh said.