As the plains become unbearable in the summer, the hills turn into a giant playground attracting tourists of various kinds — the adventure seekers, the pilgrims, families on vacation or backpackers with no real agenda.
The tourism sector in Uttarakhand that suffered huge losses in the 2013 deluge was hoping for a change in fortune this year after making full recovery, but forest fires raging for over a week have left the tourists worried.
With Yamunotri, Gangotri and Kedarnath temples opening on May 9 and summer holidays set to begin soon — marking the start of the peak tourist season — tour operators and hotel owners are a worried lot as forest fires that occur regularly in April have gotten a lot of coverage, with images of huge flames flashing across TV screen and newspapers, scaring tourists.
Tourism officials in Uttarakhand however assure tourists that they will face no problems as the fires have almost been put out and have not affected places frequented by tourists. They hope the images of raging flames being flashed do not make tourists cancel their plans.
Pradeep Singh Negi of Uttarakhand Tourism said: “Tourists need not worry about forest fires and it will not hamper any of the routes. In fact, after the floods, many roads have been widened after repairs.”
The forest fires happen every year due to dry pine cones and there is no reason for tourists to be alarmed, he added.
Anand Sankar, a travel entrepreneur and runs Kalp Trust, reached out to tourist via social media to allay fears. He says that he received many messages from worried friends and guests and post on social media which say "don't travel to Uttarakhand". Dispelling the fears, he said that these fires are localized phenomena and the entire state is not affected. He said that such comments may impact the livelihoods of people who depend on tourism in the summer. “Misinformation is very costly as we have seen in 2013 and during last year's Nepal earthquake. The worst fire is that spread by media/social media and causes extreme livelihood damage,” he added.
India Hikes a popular trekking organisation also informed that the forest fires in Uttarakhand have not affected that treks and all trekkers are safe. The only impact the fires have had is that the views from the summits are a bit hazy. The also informed that the weather was cloudy and a good rain would wash off the smog.
Tourists need not worry about forest fires and it will not hamper any of the routes
Pradeep Singh Negi