By Y.S. Rana : Giving tourism a leg-up and administering revenue generation a booster dose, the state has chalked out elaborate plans to popularize tourism in the state to capitalize on the inflow of tourists. The state government has taken slew of initiatives to popularize adventure and water sports in the state. There are a number of destinations which draw a large number of enthusiasts of adventure and water sports across the world. It is estimated that the state has witnessed an increase in the number of tourists in the first quarter of this year. Till April, 51.49 lakh tourists- foreigners as well as domestic- have made it to Himachal Pradesh. During the previous year, 1.32 crore tourists have visited the state more than the state’s population. So far as domestic tourists are concerned, 50.30 lakh have already visited the state in the last four months more than in the corresponding period of last year. Shimla, Kullu and Kangra are the most preferred tourist destinations. During the first quarter of this year, 9.25 lakh; 10 lakh and 7.15 lakh tourists have visited Kullu, Shimla and Kangra districts of the Himachal Pradesh With an objective to bring more and more tourists to the state, the state government has decided to augment the adventure and water sports.
The prestigious mountaineering institute was set up in Manali in 1961 earlier known as “Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. In 2008, it was named as ‘Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports.’ The institute has brought Manali on the International map. Besides Manali, adventure programmes are being run through other adventure centres situated at Mcleodganj in Dharamsala, Regional Water Sports Centre, in district Kangra and Bilaspur; Regional Adventure Sports Centre Hatkoti; High Altitude Trekking and skiing centre, Narkanda; Mountarineering sub-mountaineering sub-centres at Bharmaur, Jispa and Soland.
Initially, 22 courses were introduced in the institute on promotional basis to promote adventure activities and these have been upgraded from time to time by introducing latest technology. It provides training to youth in basic Mountaineering, Advance Mountaineering, Method of instruction in Mountaineering, Adventure Activities, Rock Climbing, Basic Skiing, Intermediate Skiing, Advance Skiing, Elementary Skiing, Basic Water Sports, Intermediate Water Sports in Kayaking, Advance Water Sports Sailing, Basic River Rafting, Basic Skiing (Nordic), Special Basic Skiing, Adventure Camps/Groups, Mountain Guide/Mountain Rescue, Trekking Guide, Special Water Sports, High Altitude Trekking and Aqua Parasailing & surfing ranging from minimum 8 days to maximum of 28 days of duration. The institute, so far, has trained more than 17,000 persons in various courses.
The institute has produced a number of mountaineers and skiers of international fame. Till date it has trained about 1,20,000 persons from India and abroad in various disciplines of adventure activities.In its endeavour to make this institute welfare oriented, the State Government is providing scholarship to poor outstanding persons for undergoing basic mountaineering, advance and intermediate courses in skiing and water sports activities. The Government awarded 6 scholarships in mountaineering courses, 11 scholarships for skiing courses and 7 scholarships in water sports courses during last year.
In addition to mountaineering and allied activities, the institute is also carrying out various other programmes. The Institute conducts rescue operations for people who met with accidents on mountains and in water.
To help the people to cross over Rohtang Pass, in winter season, rescue posts were set up at Marhi and Koksar so as to provide rescue and medical aid in emergencies while crossing the Pass. About 4500 people have been benefited through these rescue posts during last year.