Tourism players say nothing changed since Aug 2019
Dir Tourism optimistic for 2021, says 5,60,000 tourists visit JK in 2019; 2020 figures yet to be compiled
Srinagar, Dec 28: The situation after the August 05, 2019 decision and the subsequent outbreak of COVID-19 brought miseries among the tourism players in the Valley. Although many switched their jobs to earn a livelihood, the hope for revival still exists among the tourism players, who have demanded authorities to take proper steps to ensure the J&K records increase in footfall of tourists again.
Unlike previous years, the J&K especially Kashmir has witnessed a slump in the tourism sector as the footfall of tourists decreased to a large extent. The hoteliers, traders, houseboat owners and others have suffered huge losses since August 05, 2019, and are demanding revival of the tourism sector in the Valley.
From Poniwalas to hoteliers, everybody has suffered losses and these tourism players are finding it hard to survive as the sector is still struggling for improvement.
Talking to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), President Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF), Abdul Wahid Malik said that most of the hotels are closed in the Valley as there is no business from the last one and a half-year.
He said although some hotels are booked on New Year eve, however, from January 1 onwards, no hotel has any bookings.
“At present, snowfall and the desperation of people to come out from COVID situation has resulted in bookings of hotels, but till January 01st only,” he said, adding that big travel agencies in Maharashtra and other states of the county are still closed and thus resulted in a decline in the number of tourists in the Valley as well.
“Such is the situation that we are not even able to pay the salaries of the staff,” he said.
Muhammad Yaqoob Dunoo, Spokesman of Kashmir House Boat Owners Association (KHBOA), said that the situation is turning bad to worse for the tourism players with each passing day. “We suffered a jolt in the year 2019 after August 05, 2019, and later the outbreak of COVID added to the miseries of tourism players. The houseboat owners are not even able to spend some money on their houseboats to renovate it,” he said.
Dunoo said that at least ten houseboats got damaged in the last three months and none among them was able to renovate their houseboats due to the losses suffered by them since August last year, adding that if proper and necessary steps are not taken well on time, the houseboats will not survive here.
“Overall whosoever is affiliated with the tourism sector is badly affected since August last year. Although there are some bookings, I don’t know how the situation will remain as the COVID pandemic is still going on. People are all set to visit places like Kashmir and other states, but the situation is still not allowing them to start their journey,” he said, adding that they are hoping for a favourable situation in the upcoming year 2021 and are expecting a better season.
Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) President, Muhammad Yasin Khan said that the tourism and trade is connected with each other. “We (traders) have suffered huge losses as the arrival of tourists has declined to a large extent,” he said.
He added a trader can earn his livelihood only after the flow of tourists starts increasing, adding that the government must revive the tourism sector to put an end to the sufferings of tourism players as well as the local traders here.
Meanwhile, according to KNO, the officials in Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC), the exact number of tourists who visited Kashmir August 2019 is not available at present, but the footfall has decreased to a large extent.
Although the year 2019 after the advisory issued for the tourists was revoked by the government, a good number of tourists arrived in Kashmir till December 2019 end. Nearly 43,000 tourists arrived in Kashmir from August 2019 to December 2019.
However, the officials said that the outbreak of deadly COVID-19 led to the country-wide lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading and also, the flights to and from Srinagar was cancelled for some time.
“The outbreak of the virus has declined the rush of tourists in the Valley further as mere 19,000 tourists visited Kashmir from March 2020 to October 2020 here,” officials said, adding that from November, the rush of tourists including domestic as well as the outside country improved.
Director Tourism, Nisar Ahmad Wani said that a total of five lakh sixty thousand (5,60,000) tourists visited the Valley from January 01, 2019, to December 31, 2019.
He added that the figure for the year 2020 has not been compiled yet and would be collected soon. “The footfall of tourists witnessed a decline due to COVID-19. But, we are expecting a good tourism season in the upcoming year,” he said.