The enthusiasm of biking through the world’s highest motorable passes on Manali-Leh road is proving beneficial for the economy of Manali as more and more bikers are reaching here every year and thus breaking the previous years’ records. Manali-Leh highway has been opened for vehicles and thousands of tourists from abroad are set to start their adventurous journey with the help from experts in Manali.
Overseas tourists have started flocking to Kullu and Manali for various adventure activities in Western Himalayas. Biking, jeep safaris, trekking and camping are the main activities that would keep them busy for next five months here. It is villages of Kullu which get maximum benefit from foreigners who usually wish to stay in calm environment away from towns. More than 30 persons are providing bikes on hiring basis and over 5,00 locals are earning good after working as tour guides, cooks, helpers and porters. More than 700 families in Vashisht, Old Manali, Naggar, Manikaran, Kasol, Shuru, Aleo and dozens of other villages are very much dependant on foreign tourists for their livelihood.
“Foreigners have started gathering in Kullu to start various adventure activities and smiles are back on the faces of local residents,” a prominent foreigner tourist’s guide Dhani Thakur said. He added that successful biking across some of the highest mountain passes of the world, including Khardung La (17,582 ft), Marismik La (18,314 ft), Baralacha La (16,050 ft) in Himachal and Ladakh is similar to summiting Mt Everest for bikers. “It is dream of all biker to drive on this route. Arrival of more and more tourists is ensuring good income opportunity for locals. Biking and other adventure activities would continue till late October,” he added.
Main benefit from foreigners is that they live for months in guest houses in villages and provide earning opportunities to villagers. Youths of the villages in Kullu have acclimatized themselves according to the needs of tourists and are offering their services as guides, tour operators and helpers. Ever since the Khardung La in Nubra valley of Ladakh has been opened for motor vehicles in 1988, bikers are dying to set records on this high altitude mountain road.
The annual foreign tourist arrival in Kullu in 1980s was less than 20 thousand and it was nearly 40 thousand in 1090s. 1.33 lakh tourists from abroad visited district in 2009-10 and the number increased to 1.38 lakh in 2010-11. And this number is estimated to cross the 1.5 lakh mark this year.
Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the jeep safari tours and bike tours to Leh Ladakh are off the road in 2020. The tourism is expected to come to normalcy very soon.