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Posted at: Apr 21, 2017, 1:45 AM; last updated: Apr 21, 2017, 1:45 AM (IST)

Register your premises or face action, small guest houses told

Lalit Mohan

Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, April 20

Hundreds of small guest house owners were summoned by the Department of Tourism in Dharamsala yesterday. Written notice was issued to all the guest house owners that they should get their premises registered with the Tourism Department pending which action would be taken against them.

Lokesh, who runs a guest house at his house in the Dharamkot area of McLeodganj, said the Department of Tourism in its notice implied that the guest house owners should get the maps of their houses passed from authorised architects and municipal council authorities, make necessary amendments in the buildings as per guidelines of the corporation and then register with the Tourism Department.

If small guest house owners of the Upper Bhagsu and Dharamkot follow the instructions of the department, they would have to spend Rs 2 lakh, which was a substantial amount for them, he said.

The guest houses in Dharamkot and the Upper Bhagsu areas of Dharamsala have grown naturally over a period of time. The locals have converted their small houses in the hills into guest houses each having two to three rooms. Since the approach to these areas was just by foot, earlier mostly foreign tourists used to stay in these guests houses. However, over the past few years with improving road connectivity these spots have become a favourite of domestic tourists also.

Mukesh, a tourist and a regular visitor to the area, said the way guest houses had developed in the Dharamkot and Upper Bhagsu areas of Dharamsala, it was an ideal example of how local communities should be involved in developing eco-friendly tourism. The commercial hotels that are now coming up in the area are in fact late entries into the area. Big commercial hotels that consume more natural resources and cause damage to the ecology should in fact be discouraged in such areas, he said.

The district tourism officer was not available for comments despite repeated calls. However, sources said the CID department had given report to the police headquarters that many unregistered guest houses were functioning in the Dharamsala area. Following the report from the CID, the Tourism Department initiated action against the guest houses.

Basically, the mandate of the department was to promote tourism in the state. With its limited budget and staff, the department had not contributed much to the development of tourism in the state. The vice-chairman of the Tourism Development Board of Himachal, Vijai Singh Mankotia had said the department was ill-equipped and was not being able to perform its duties.

Senior BJP leader from Dharamsala Kishan Kapoor has flayed the move of the department against the guest house owners of Dharamsala. He alleged that the state government had not spent anything for the development of Dharamsala as a tourist spot. “It should not at least harass the tourism industry that has grown naturally in the area and is the strength of the area,” he added.

The previous BJP government had floated a policy of homestay in the state. People were asked to get up to three rooms in their houses registered under the homestay scheme. The idea was to encourage people in rural areas to earn from tourism by converting their houses into guest houses. It was also proposed that there would be no taxes on homestay guest houses.

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