Himachal for restoration of air connectivity

Manali, Feb 9 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh has taken up the issue of restoration of flights to and from the state with the prime minister and the civil aviation minister, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said here Saturday.

Opening a five-day winter carnival in this picturesque tourist resort, which has been wrapped up in a thick blanket of snow, he told reporters that the suspension of flights for over five months has started impacting the tourism sector - a major source of income for the state.

"The problems the state has been facing after the closure of the airports at Shimla, Kullu and Kangra also figured at my recent meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (Feb 4)," he added.

Kingfisher was the only airline that operated regular flights between Delhi and Himachal Pradesh. However, it discontinued operations in the state before it was grounded in October 2012.

The chief minister said Manali has emerged as one of the most beautiful and famous tourist destinations in the region.

"The pristine beauty and salubrious climate makes Manali a world famous destination. It's the duty of the tourists in general and hoteliers and locals in particular to maintain ecological balance of the region," he said.

Later, interacting with members of the local hospitality industry, the chief minister said the hoteliers must ensure that the tourists visiting the state should get a feeling of homely stay.

He assured them the government would provide all possible help to make Manali a tourist paradise.

He said the government would take up the work of channelisation of the Beas river besides building an artificial lake on the river. "This (the lake) would be an added attraction to the tourists."

Anup Thakur, Manali Hotelier Association president, requested the chief minister to improve the condition of the National Highway 21, which connects this town with Chandigarh, to facilitate the tourists.

He said the state government was levying 10 percent luxury tax, whereas no such tax was being levied by the neighbouring states.

He sought the state either reduced it to five percent or exempted the hoteliers from it for the initial five years.

Meanwhile, organisers of the winter carnival said more than 17 cultural teams from across the country would perform.

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