Shimla: Heli-taxis will be started in Himachal Pradesh next month to attract high-end tourists to the state, an official said on Saturday.
"From next month, the heli-taxis will start operations in the state. For this, the government has identified three companies - Sim Sam Airlines, Mesco Airlines and Shiva Airlines," Director of Tourism Arun Sharma said.
He said negotiations were on with heli-taxi operators to finalise their area of operation and fare.
"An MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) is likely be signed with the companies in the next few days after finalising the aviation fuel rates with the Indian Oil Corporation," he added.
The tourism department has identified 57 helipads in the state that could be made functional for heli-taxi service.
"Initially, we have plans to start heli-taxis from Delhi and Chandigarh to all the district headquarters. Later, most of the prominent tourist places will be linked with air connectivity. We have even identified 10 more helipads, mainly in rural and tribal areas, and these will be developed soon," he added.
The government is also planning to set up an international airport in the state.
Sharma said a huge chunk of land has been identified at three locations in Shimla and Solan districts where an airport of international standard would be set up under public-private sector partnership (PPP) mode.
The hospitality industry is happy with the decision.
"The advent of the heli-taxis would certainly increase the influx of the tourists, particularly the high-end visitors. This would promote Buddhist tourism in the trans-Himalayas," said D.P. Bhatia, general manager of the well-known Clarke`s Hotel, here.
The Buddhist tourism in Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur districts comprises of visits to monasteries like Tabo which is over 1,000 years old and is also called as the Ajanta of the Himalayas, Dhankar, Gungri, Lidang, Hikim, Sagnam and Nako.
Himachal Pradesh, known for its apples and picture-perfect tourist spots, attracted 11,437,155 tourists, including 400,583 foreigners, last year.
Kullu and Manali are tourist hotspots, followed by Shimla and Dharamsala, the seat of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.