The hoteliers and tourism sector in Himachal Pradesh heaved a sigh of relief as the state government had decided to allow entry of tourists, about more than 3 months after a ban was imposed to check spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the tourists will have to follow some conditions as registration with the state government on e-Pass portal though no permission is required as was the case earlier when a person visiting the state had to seek government’s permission after which e-Pass was issued.

Further, the tourists will have to produce a negative test report for COVID-19 which should be conducted 72 hours before the start of journey and a prior hotel booking for atleast five days.

An order in this regard had been issued by Chief Secretary and State Executive Committee chairman, Anil Khachi with the aim of phased opening of the state after COVID-19 lockdown under Unlock-II.

“Tourists with valid booking, preferably for durations not less than five days and having been tested for COVID-19 by an ICMR-accredited laboratory not earlier than 72 hours at the time of entry may also be exempted from the requirement of quarantine,” the state government order stated.

However, no date had been issued by the state government as to when the tourists can visit the state.

The government officials said the state government was studying the Standard Operating Procedure issued by Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala where the governments had opened tourist spots for visitors.

“The state government would soon issue SOPs for hotels and visitors which shall be followed strictly by them,” the officials said, adding the inter-state bus service would remain suspended till further orders.

Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association president Mohinder Seth thanked Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur for the decision to allow tourists’ entry and this would provide much needed relief to the tourism sector which was worst hit in lockdown.

“Tourist places in other parts of the country as Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Kerala have been opened for visitors and in the times of competition, it would have badly affected Himachal if the state government hadn’t opened the border for them,” he said.

Seth said the hotel industry in the state had decided to close their businesses on their own in March and they had already lost much time of the earning season in the state.

“We would open the hotels now as per Standard Operating Procedure which would be issued by the state government and the hoteliers are hopeful of making up for losses that they had suffered in the last three months,” he added.

It is worthwhile to mention here that Himachal Pradesh had barred the entry of tourists in March to check the spread of the Novel Coronavirus and this had led to many hotels in tourist destinations such as Shimla, Manali and Dharamshala to file for closure.