A rise in the number of foreign tourists to popular hill stations of Himachal Pradesh picked up steam during last year as a total of 4. 85 Lakh foreign tourists arrived in the state in the year 2011 compared with 4.53 lakh in the year 2010, an increase of 32000 tourists despite of market recession and economic meltdown.

As per the data from department of tourism and civil aviation UK, USA, Australia and France are the top contributors of foreign tourists.

The state welcomed 1.60 lakh foreign tourists from UK, USA, France and Australia during the year 2011 , around 15000 jump from the same time last year, when around 1.45 lakh foreign tourist visited the state during the year 2010.

The Shimla, Kullu and Kangra district has emerged as popular international tourist destination where constant influx of people doesn’t limit itself to the usual summer and holiday high seasons. The Kullu welcomed 1.38 lakh foreign tourists while the Shimla received 1.34 lakh foreign tourists and kangra received 98962 foreign tourists during last year experiencing impressive growth.

Shimla, Manali, Dharamshala, Mcleodganj, Kasauli, Chail, Dalhousie, Keylong, Palampur remained top most visited hill station by estimated 4 lakh international tourists during the year 2011.

Shimla town, once the Summer Capital of the India from where about 1/5th of the world’s population had been ruled during colonial time remained the favourite destination of the Britishers even after 65 years of the leaving the city as the largest numbers of Britishers visited the queen of hills in comparison to the other foreign tourists

The increase in foreign tourists’ arrival in past years is encouraging. Over the last five years, international tourism arrivals have been growing consistently and number of the international travelers has rapidly increased to 4.85 lakhs in the year 2011 in comparision to 2.07 lakh international tourist arrival recorded in the year 2005. The international tourist arrival is likely to exceed 5 lakh during the current year as many new travelers are originating from the expanding middle class of large emerging economies, who are looking to purchase exceptional tourism experiences, and this trend is expected to continue said Dr Arun Sharma Director Tourism.

Although Himachal tourism industry relies heavily on Britishers, French and Americans, yet visitors originate from all over the world, including major markets such as Australia, Italy ,Canada, Japan, Singapore and Saudi Arabia registering high overseas market growth in comparison to UK,USA and French tourists

The State Government is established “Brand Himachal” as an attractive tourist destination under the caption “Unforgettable Himachal.

Since the flow of international tourists is increasing every year, the hotels in hill destinations do brisk business during the season generating additional growth, income, and employment which also benefits other parts of the economy, creating demand for goods and services like Kullu shawls, Chamba rumal, Kangra paintings, Himachali woolen products etc provided by state artisans, enterprises and private sector. Almost all hill properties, major hotels and home stay units’ remains full to their capacity, which is a common phenomenon during the tourist seasons.

The state govt has introduced heli-taxi services, besides there are regular flights to Kullu, Kangra and Shimla airport from Delhi to provide better connectivity to international tourists.

Himachal became the first state to launch the electronic brochure in the Country. Himachal is hosting large-scale events which are attracting even more tourists. The events like Mountain biking, Paragliding, Vintage car rally, skiing, river-rafting etc. are being organised in the state from time to time.

The department has chalked out plan to increase the average stay of tourists from the present two and half day by at least a day to trigger the spending by at least 20 percent said Dr Arun Sharma Director Tourism and civil aviation.

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