Himachal Pradesh government will showcase the history of Shimla and its linkages with Indian freedom struggle through a light and sound show for tourists.

In reply to a discussion on tourism policy in the state Assembly, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who holds Tourism portfolio, said tourists must know the history of Shimla.

“Shimla is not just about Mall Road,” he quipped. He said a place would be chosen for the light and sound show on the lines of Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was thinking ‘out of the box’ to promote tourism in the hill state.

“The Chief Minister said there had been much lip service on tourism promotion in Himachal in the past “but this government wants to do something practical and will go beyond the routine measures to sell Himachal as a tourism destination.”

He felt, “tourism could be the mainstay of economy in Himachal. It can address the issue of unemployment, as it is not possible for any government to give employment to youth in the public sector.”

Thakur, who spoke comprehensively on tourism, said the government had been able to get approval for the first ever big tourism project for Himachal worth Rs 1,892 crore (loan) from Asian Development Bank (ADB).

He said for the first time the government has kept Rs 50 crore to for new tourist destinations in the state. “Our effort would be to take tourism to virgin destinations like Chanshal in Shimla, Bir Biling in Kangra and Janjheli in Mandi,” he said. He said the government plans to develop the old Hindustan-Tibet road from Narkanda to Namgya on community-based tourism as a part of eco-travel circuit.

Thakur said the government proposed to develop snow points in the state from tourism point of view. He said there were many such points other than Rohtang Pass which can attract the tourists.

Thakur said poor connectivity was a big stumbling block in tourism promotion in Himachal. He said there have been problems in expansion of all the three airports ~ Shimla, Gaggal and Kullu ~ so that the government had taken up with the Centre for developing a fourth and bigger airport in Himachal at a suitable place, which will solve the problem of air connectivity.”

The CM referred to helitaxi service started by government with state chopper from Shimla and Chandigarh. He said the tourists who come to Himachal attracted by its beauty always rue the poor road connectivity. “I am sure the new four-lane highways in Himachal will solve this problem from tourism point of view,” he claimed.

Thakur said the state government was planning to encourage lake tourism on dam sites, heritage tourism, religious tourism and adventure tourism.

The Chief Minister sought cooperation from Congress in promoting tourism sector in public private partnership, while accepting that the government could not alone take up this task due to financial constraints.