Kashmir sees sharp decline in tourists this year
SRINAGAR: Kashmir has seen a sharp decline in tourists this year owing to the turbulent political situation, with just about 20 per cent occupancy in hotels and very few advance bookings even as the peak season has started.
Hoteliers and travel agents said that if the situation does not improve, many of them may be forced to look for another business.
“The situation is going from bad to worse. We have just 15-20 per cent occupancy, down from 70-80 per cent a year ago. The political uncertainty and continued violence leaves no scope for this sector,” Javed Burza, president of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, told ET.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in his recent speech at Udhampur in Jammu asked the youth of Kashmir to choose between tourism and terrorism. J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also said that militancy and terrorism can be tackled with tourism. However, the fresh bout of violence in the recent by-election appear to have dimmed the prospects for this season.
This comes amid the shadow of five months of protests in the wake of the killing of militant Burhan Wani last year, during which more than 95 civilians were killed, 15,000 injured and 8,000 arrested.
“Why were elections in south Kashmir postponed till May, which is again peak season?” asked Burza. “The violence on election day has hampered all the chances of bookings even in May or June. If the government is serious about tourism, any sort of elections should take place after autumn.”
One of the busiest tourist destinations during summer is Pahalgam in southern Kashmir, which is also one of the routes to reach Amarnath cave. Although tourists from nearby Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have started coming, people familiar with the matter said that a diplomat from one of these countries along with his relatives and friends was caught in the protests in Srinagar on Thursday, further dampening the chances of more arrivals from these countries.
“Tourism is not picking up. Nobody is promoting Kashmir in India from where a huge rush could have been expected during summer holidays,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Siah, president of the Travel Agents Society of Kashmir.
“The political statements from the governments further create fear and confusion among potential tourists.” In 2016, Kashmir had suffered a 55 per cent decline over the previous year to 403, 442 tourists.