Hostile Kashmir situation leaves Tourism Industry on Crutches | KNO

Hotels at major tourist destinations in valley wear deserted look; tourism down by 90 per cent, say tour operators
Hostile Kashmir situation leaves Tourism Industry on Crutches | KNO

Kashmir News Observer (KNO)

Srinagar, May 25 (KNO) : As the influx of holidaymakers to the Valley has witnessed a steep decline, tourism sector is in dire stress in Kashmir. Despite promotional campaigns launched by the tourism department and tour operators earlier this year in different states, tourists have mostly stayed away from the valley, especially in the aftermath of Pulwama attack in February. Most of the hotels in almost all the tourist locations and hill resorts are empty. The tourism operators and hotel owners say tourism is down by almost 80 to 90 percent this year. Talking to KNO, Athar Yameen, General Secretary of Travel Agents Society of Kashmir said after Pulwama incident, tourism players tried to revive tourism and did many promotional shows in other states hoping more tourists will visit the valley, “but there was no positive response,” said Yameen. “Even bookings done in January were canceled and we didn’t see much of new bookings by tourists from other states for this summer season.” Sajad Ahmad who owns Hotel Enco resort at Gogji Bagh said the hospitality industry does not see any hope of recovering from the losses suffered in this tourist season which has witnessed the lowest tourist inflow. He said tourism is down by 70 to 80 percent this year which has also affected all the allied sectors. “We have around 30 percent of tourism right now. In previous weeks it was not even 15 percent. This year it’s particularly bad,” said Sajad. He said there are very few hotel bookings by tourists and those too are possible because of their personal efforts and contacts. Irshad Ahmad of Euphoria Travels told KNO the main tourist season, which extends from spring up to June 10, is almost over without seeing any significant tourist bookings and other tourism-related economic activity. “In the coming months some pilgrim tourists arrive but the main summer season during which lakhs of people associated with the tourism sector earn their livelihood is almost over now,” he said. Foreign tourists from Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Thailand have been visiting the valley in the recent years despite adverse travel advisories due to personal efforts of Kashmir tour operators and travel agencies, said Irshad. “But high-end tourists from European countries and the U.S. are not visiting Kashmir in significant numbers as they follow their country’s travel advisories which are adverse and still in force for Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. As per tourism players several factors, including a weak economy, demonetization, GST, and the aftermath of the Pulwama incident resulted in less number of tourist arrivals and tourist bookings this year. Ashfaq Siddiq Dug, the president of Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) told KNO the bookings for the summer season opens in January for the April to June 15 main tourist season in Kashmir. That was badly hit by Pulwama incident in February and the subsequent elections season which led to cancellations of previous bookings. The subsequent tourist bookings were also less for the summer season. “Apart from that, tourism is already affected in Kashmir due to our internal problems and negative portrayal of Kashmir in the national media every time there’s some violent incident here,” said Dug. “Hotels in major tourist resorts of the valley are mostly vacant as tourists aren’t visiting,” he said, painting a grim picture of tourism in Kashmir. “You’ll find empty rooms in most of the hotels in these resorts.”(KNO)