Tourists throng hill stations, as India reels under severe heatwave

Hotels in tourist destinations of hilly regions are witnessing huge rush of travellers owing to conclusion of an over-stretched Lok Sabha elections and prevailing heatwave conditions

Hill stations

New Delhi: Hill stations seem to have turned out to be the most favourite destinations for tourists in this summer. Occupancy in hotels have seen massive rise, thanks to prevailing heatwave conditions in western and central Indian states and schools being closed for summer vacation.

Tourists planners say that many upmarket hotels in hill stations like Shimla usually remain fully occupied, allowing the hoteliers to cash in on the rush. The Oberoi group luxury hotel in Shimla, Wildflower Hall, is charging ₹41,000-45,000 per night for a regular room, roughly 50-60% higher than the usual rates in June. The rush of visitors is so high in Shimla, as people required booking for the rooms at least three-four days in advance. The top suite at the same hotel is priced at approximately ₹1.9 lakh per night. The Six Senses Vana in Dehradun is taking ₹95,000 with taxes for per night stay.

Travel agents are also leaving no stone unturned to make the best bargain owing to surge in tourists. Airline companies have already jacked up the fare for the most popular destinations like Kashmir, Leh-Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, the northeast, Coorg, Munnar, Coonoor, and Wayanad. Apart from the public transport, some expedition-loving people are preferring roadways to drive their vehicles.

Airfares to popular destination see surge

Airfares from Delhi to destinations like Darjeeling have increased by 7-25% this year vis-a-vis June 2023 last year. The cost of air tickets to Bagdogra from Delhi have risen by 25%, Dharamshala, Shimla, Manali, and Srinagar by 16-17%, and Coonoor, Coorg, and Munnar via Coimbatore by about 8%, data from Thomas Cook India showed. Another popular online travel agency Yatra Online Ltd. has seen an uptick of 10-15% in airfares to nearby airports serving hill stations like Shimla, Manali, Coorg, Munnar and others.

“Our online searches for hill station hotels have jumped by over 50% compared to last year for locations such as Shimla, Manali, Coorg, Darjeeling, and Gangtok. This travel demand has significantly increased hotel occupancy by approximately 30%, with room tariffs rising 8-15%,” said Daniel D’Souza, president, and country head for holidays at SOTC Travel.

Hotel tariff peaks in Darjeeling, other hill stations

Tariff of the hotels in areas like Darjeeling has jumped by 10-14%), while those going to Coonoor, Coorg and Munnar are paying 5-14% extra for hotel booking. Hoteliers in Dharamshala, Shimla, and Manali have also increased the room tariff by around 8-12%, while Srinagar saw a similar 12% increase for both 4 and 5-star properties.

According to Thomas Cook India’s data, there is around 30% upsurge in demand for hilly destinations due to the intense heatwave in Delhi-NCR and surrounding regions. The sudden rush of tourists is also attributed to over-stretched Lok Sabha elections. A Thomas Cook official said that tourists were most interested in short breaks and weekend getaways of 2-3 nights, as well as longer stays of 7-15 days. The firm expects that the demand for hotel booking might continue through mid-August.

Hotels see 15% rise in hotel booking

The Radisson group hotels in Dharamshala, Pahalgam, Kufri, Sonmarg, Srinagar, Manali, and Mussoorie have seen about 15% year-on-year growth in occupancy, with average daily tariff going up to ₹18,000 for a night. “Travellers generally prefer a mix of luxury and mid-segment accommodation for their 3-5 day stays, engaging in activities both within and outside the hotels,” said a spokesman of the Radisson Hotel in Manali.

A Marriott International official said that hill resorts are experiencing a 7% increase in average daily rates and 10% rise in revenue per available room (RevPAR) this year. “The company’s travel trends, and pace are favourable compared to last year, with occupancies exceeding 75%, and the increased demand is being optimized by the company,” he added.

With tourists rushing to cooler places to beat the heat in style, tourists destinations in warmer locations are facing massive decline in hotel occupancy. While hotel rates have shot up in cooler climes, cities in Rajasthan, for instance, are seeing a huge drop in hotel rates. Brands like Radisson, Devi Ratn, Jaipur – IHCL SeleQtions, Intercontinental in Jaipur for instance, are between 18-55% lower than their regular room rates. Even regions in Uttar Pradesh, like Agra, have seen a big drop in rates and some cancellations from travellers. The Oberoi Amarvilas, for instance, is quoting 20-30% lower than its usual hotel rates.

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