With mercury rising in the plains and schools and colleges closed for vacations, Himachal Pradesh is expected to witness a record tourist inflow this summer season.

“We’re predicting a strong summer season this year. In the peak season of May-June around 35 lakh tourists are expected to visit various places of the state,” Tourism Director Arun Sharma said, adding that the arrival of foreign as well as domestic tourists has already started picking up.

The Himachal Tourism department has set a target of 1.50 crore tourists this year, Mr. Sharma said.

Last year, Himachal had registered a record growth in tourist arrivals with over 1.32 crore tourists, double the state population, visiting the state.

The tourist inflow to the hill stations at Manali, Dalhousie, Dharamshala and Shimla has already began, the official said.

The state has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of tourists during first quarter of the year with estimated 51.49 lakhs tourists visiting the state up to April 30, Sharma said.

Kullu, Kangra and Shimla districts remained the favourite as about 50 per cent of the tourists headed to these areas.

The Kullu district recorded around 9.25 lakh Indian and foreign tourist in first quarter of the year, while the Shimla district recorded 10 lakh tourists.

The Kangra district, home to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, recorded 7.15 lakh tourists, the government said.