Srinagar, Feb 28: Even after the expiry of over six month when Jammu Kashmir lost its special status, the mood in the tourism sector is far from normal. The biggest revenue earner, the tourism sector is still deep in a hole. Desperate measures to cushion the tourism industry from the aftermath of India’s drastic move in August, last year to repeal the state’s special status, have had limited effect till now.
People associated with tourism sector in Kashmir Valley told Kashmir News Trust that nothing is well in Kashmir particularly when it comes to tourists. This winter Kashmir Valley witnessed a huge slump in tourism business and this slump continues. The road shows and campaigns undertaken by Tourism Department in other parts of India have not turned the tables while the tourist influx is still below normal in Valley,” they said.
“While the region recorded good tourist inflow last winter, hotel occupancy rates are still low and are struggling to go past 20%. The availability of limited internet service has also hit the sector,” said Muhammad Athar who runs a hotel as well as Travel Agency in Srinagar.
Tourists had started arriving in Valley in scattered form. “Those who arrive here, leave from Valley as they the ban on high speed mobile internet irks them. After high air fares, internet suspension is the biggest reason for the decline in tourist arrivals,” he added.
Another travel agent said that Kashmir has been witnessing a year-on-year decrease in bookings. “After the abrogation of Article 370, search enquiries have also gone down by more than 50% year on year.”
Pertinently, tourism plays a crucial role in J&K’s economy. Contributing 8% to the state’s gross domestic product, it also caters to allied sectors like handicrafts, handloom, and transport. In 2017, J&K hosted over 1.2 million tourists, according to government record.
The sector employs over a million people, directly and indirectly, according to industry estimates. However, the sector rarely flourishes as it ought to, given the Kashmir’s picturesque landscape and rich cultural heritage. Due to prevailing uncertain and uneasy situation, Kashmir is not even among the top 10 domestic tourist destinations in India