NEW DELHI - The growing numbers of paragliding enthusiasts that dotted the skies above Bir and Billing in North India prompted Karan Vir to lease a 12-room property to open a hotel four years ago. He was among local entrepreneurs racing to set up charming cafes and small hotels to accommodate the rush of foreign and domestic visitors in these remote Himalayan hamlets that emerged on the tourist map after being counted among the world’s top paragliding destinations.
The adventure sport was not the only attraction -- many people also came to trek, cycle and visit nearby Buddhist monasteries nestled along lush mountain slopes. The visitors stayed at Bir, 14 kilometers away from the paragliding site at Billing. Business at Vir’s hotel, Bir Resorts, boomed. “Lot of pilots from throughout the world used to come over here, for one month, two months. We earn a lot from them and from national tourists also,” he recalled.
But after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered everything in late March when India imposed a stringent lockdown, he decided to close down the hotel and returned the property he leased six months ago.
He is not the only one abandoning the fledgling hospitality business that had plugged these once-obscure villages into the modern world and opened up jobs and opportunities for mountain communities that depended mainly on farming.
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