If you think Mussoorie is merely a summer destination, think again. The 'Queen of the Hills', as it is popularly called, is now a year-round destination.
From 1950 to 1979, the tourist season here used to last for four months - May to July and October to November. During these months, over 50'000 tourists used to come and Mussoorie was most rightly called a summer retreat. But after 1984, things changed drastically and the tourism season here began to expand. The last eight years have recorded over 50,000 visitors every month, thus making Mussoorie a round the year tourist destination.
The trend of arrivals witnessed a major change after India's first affordable car, the Maruti, rolled out on to the Indian roads to give a new definition to family transportation in the country. In the 50s, the annual turnout of visitors here used to be below 2 lakh and now it has grown ten fold to cross 20 lakh.
Data provided of the past five years by the Uttarakhand Tourism Department indicates that for two months (June and July) the number of visitors exceeds 3 lakh. In May, it is over two lakh and for four months it is over one lakh. Apart from January, during the remaining months (Feb, March, Oct and Nov) close to one lakh tourists visit this popular destination per month. January is the lone lean month that attracts just 60,000 visitors.
Commenting on this, eminent travel writer Huge Gantzer, based here, says, "In the 80's, Mussoorie witnessed the 'Maruti boom', as it was popularly called, and many development activities related to tourism took place here. Many new hotels were established and people, especially from the neighboring states started visiting the spot. Mussoorie definitely is now a year-round destination. The crowd is year-round but the commercial activities are not."
After the Maruti upswing in '83-'84, the year 1986 created history by recording an annual additional 1.05 lakh visitors. In 1990, another landmark was reached by attracting an annual additional 2.91 lakh visitors.
In the 50s and 60s, the 'Queen of the Hills' was one of the hot spots among the rich and the famous. Now it has mostly lost that class of tourists. Presently, it is businessmen and working class people in large numbers who visit the destination.
Mussoorie's legendary resident, writer Ruskin Bond says, "In the past, royal families used to visit here and stay for long periods. Their tour used to be more leisurely. But it appears that because of easy Visa facilities and the cost of airfares going down, a lot of the present day elite now prefers to visit foreign destinations. At the present, visitors mostly come here for the weekend and their visit is short."
Now, every Thursday and Friday, a large number of visitors from Haryana, New Delhi, Punjab and UP flock to the hill resort.
With the change in the trend, local hoteliers are smiling but environmentalists are quite upset. They term this growth a threat to fragile environment. Vipin Kumar complains, "The boom in weekend tourism here has turned Mussoorie into a junk yard. People visiting the resort are not emotionally connected as their visit is a quick one and for a brief period."
These figures give a clear indication of growing tourism in Mussoorie.