Manali may witness a surge in tourism as Kullu administration on Friday announced to throw open Marhi, the summer snow point, for tourists from Sunday while Rohtang pass will also open for vehicular traffic in a few days.
The officials informed that Rohtang will be opened for vehicular traffic before May 15. However, it may take little more time to open the pass for tourists. Till then tourists can go to Marhi and Beas nullah, just below Rohtang pass, where they can see 5 to 10ft of rarely touched pure snow. Till now, tourists were allowed to go till Gulaba only and they had to hike on steep trails to reach the snow.
Kullu deputy commissioner Yunus said Border Roads Organization (BRO) was clearing snow from the highway with target to open Rohtang in first week of May but inclement weather has delayed work by a few days. “Fresh snowfall blocks the road again and again. BRO is working hard to resume traffic on the highway before election. Given the convenience of tourists and people of Lahaul, Pangi and Kullu, vehicles would be allowed to go till Marhi from Sunday,” he said.
Yunus added that parking arrangement for about 400 vehicles has been made at Marhi after removing snow and efforts are on to double the capacity by Sunday. Only 600 vehicles would be allowed to go till Marhi on Sunday. Department of tourism has been asked to deploy a JCB machine to remove snow and increase parking capacity.
“The permits to go to Marhi will be available online from Saturday. The permits for tourist vehicles can be obtained on website between 10am and 4pm. However, 600 permits for Sunday would be available in the afternoon. After this, permits for 1,300 tourist vehicles will be available every day and permit fee will be Rs 550 per vehicle. Besides existing check post of Gulaba where permits are checked, one another check post would be established at Gulaba to regulate traffic. Vehicles would be allowed to go to Marhi, Rohtang or beyond Rohtang as per timetable,” he said.
Temporary toilets have been established at Marhi and mobile toilets will be established in a few days. A sewage treatment plant is proposed to be built at Marhi which will take many months to build. Dustbins are being placed and drivers are directed to collect waste from passengers in the trash bags being provided to them free of cost. Day-officer and duty magistrate will take care of all required facilities at Marhi from Sunday.
Additional force of 150 home guards would be deployed to ensure smooth traffic movement. Disaster management and rescue teams will take care of tourists in case of trouble at Rohtang pass. The eco-friendly market at Marhi would be functional in few days. Tourists can now enjoy mobile and internet connectivity at Marhi and Rohtang pass.
Lakhs of tourists visit Himachal during summer season and visiting Rohtang pass to see snow would be the purpose of most of them. April 15 to June 30 is the time when the state witnesses peak tourism in the year and most of the hotels remain fully occupied during this time. This year most of the hoteliers are complaining of low tourist footfall and low room occupancy. Hoteliers blame ongoing elections and IPL matches for this.
Hoteliers say many tourists keep postponing their Manali trips until Rohtang pass is open. Once the pass is open, tourists make beeline to Manali. Not only Manali but the entire state gets benefitted from opening of Rohtang pass, the major tourist destination of the state. Currently Rohtang has 10 to 20ft of snow. Tourists can enjoy with a lot of snow at Marhi until Rohtang is not open.