Published on : Wednesday, October 7, 2020
The newly opened Rohtang tunnel has turned into the latest attraction as tourists as well as locals are rushing to Manali to experience a drive through the engineering marvel.
Within hours of the inauguration of the tunnel by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, SUVs from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi lined up at Dhundi, outside the north portal of the Rohtang tunnel. Manali, which had a few tourists till last week, suddenly saw the town coming alive after over six months. People could be seen taking pictures and selfies, which made appearance on social media within seconds.
The opening of the tunnel could prove to be a blessing for the badly hit hotel industry in Manali. The craze to drive through the world’s longest motorable tunnel at a height of over 10,000 ft is drawing huge crowds.
Most tourists are driving up to Keylong and staying at hotels and guest houses though all units have not resumed operation. “Since October 3, there has been a major surge in the tourist rush in Keylong and people are asking us about accommodation options,” says Sonam Palma, a shopkeeper in Keylong.
“We had been keen to go on a holiday for long but because of Covid, we had been avoiding a trip. We made a sudden decision to travel to see the tunnel,” says Mandeep and his two friends, who drove up from Chandigarh to experience the drive through the 9.02-km-long tunnel.
Much to the amazement of Manali hoteliers, the sleepy town till two days ago suddenly was bustling with activity as shopkeepers and small traders could be seen getting back to business. Despite the inter-state borders being thrown open, the inflow of tourists had till recently been a trickle.
Hoteliers in Manali, many of them under huge bank debts, are still sceptical about tourism activities returning to normalcy any time soon. “Though people are gradually opening their properties, we feel it will take two-three years for Manali to be back to business,” says Budhi Prakash Thakur, president of the HP Travel Agents Association.