Shimla: If you are going to Shimla to ring in the New Year, be prepared to pay exorbitant room tariffs. But if you feel you have been overcharged and even cheated, the tourism department may come to your rescue and get your excess payment reimbursed.
Himachal Tourism is keeping a tight watch on unscrupulous hotel owners and tour operators and is even imposing heavy fines.
"We are regularly conducting raids on hotels and restaurants in and around Shimla. On those occasions when there is a sudden surge of tourists, the drive intensifies," district tourism officer Surinder Justa said.
He said the department is also keeping a tab on the quality of services being provided in hotels and is monitoring the room tariffs and food rates. "We usually issue advisory to the hotels to display their room tariffs prominently," he added.
Sandeep Singh, a tourist from Delhi, rued that he had to shell out Rs.250 for a bottle of beer, purchased from a liquor vender on Mall Road, the famous strolling street, on Christmas.
"A bottle of beer usually sells at around Rs.75 in Shimla. But seeing the rush of tourists, most of the liquor shops increased the rates. Similarly, a pack of cigarette costs more in the hills. It`s simply fleecing the guests," he said.
Justa said that in most of the cases, the tourists themselves prefer to pay more and never complain to authorities.
He said Chandigarh tourist Saurabh Malik lodged a complaint about how he was fleeced by a prominent hotel in Shimla on returning to his city.
In his complaint, he cited the rude behavior of the staff of a hotel, the use of porters by the hotel to lure customers, not displaying the tariff, grossly overcharging, asking additional money for the room heater, among other things.
Justa said that acting on his complaint, the department imposed a fine of Rs.1,000 on the hotel for its poor service and told its management to reimburse half the room tariff, which was Rs.2,000.
The ‘Queen of Hills`, as Shimla was fondly called by the British, has more than 300 hotels and restaurants.
According to tourism department estimates, over 50,000 tourists, mainly from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi, are expected to reach Shimla and nearby tourist spots to celebrate New Year`s Eve.
Most hotels were fully booked well in advance. The most sought-after destinations in the state are Shimla, Narkanda, Kasauli, Manali and Dalhousie, travel agencies say.