Decline in tourism: Stakeholders smell rat

Expressing concern over the sharp decline in tourist arrivals, the tourism traders and people affiliated with hospitality sector today alleged that some “vested interests” were creating trouble for the Kashmir tourism industry and its economy.
Decline in tourism: Stakeholders smell rat
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Expressing concern over the sharp decline in tourist arrivals, the tourism traders and people affiliated with hospitality sector today alleged that some "vested interests" were creating trouble for the Kashmir tourism industry and its economy.

The tourism traders who suffered huge business losses during last September floods said they were optimistic that the tourism this season will pick up.

"But sequence of events which unfolded from April suggests that there is some conspiracy going on to derail the Kashmir economy."

"We feel there is some big conspiracy going on to damage our economy," chairman Kashmir Economic Alliance, Showkat Chowdhary said.

"We are witnessing for last few years that whenever the tourism season approaches, certain events take place which generate bad publicity and as a result of which tourists feel frightened to visit Kashmir," he said.

"Events like flood scare are publicized in such a way that 70 per cent of our bookings previously got cancelled. Then there were attacks on cell towers. That again created scare among the intending tourists as a result of which our tourist arrival reached the lowest ebb and even the bookings are made were cancelled," Chowdhary who is also president of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association, said.

President, Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners' Federation, G M Dug said there is only "30 per cent occupancy rate in hotels across Kashmir."

"The events which unfold during our tourism season, which is very limited, suggests that there is a deep conspiracy to inflict and cause damages to our economy," he said, adding that tourism "is a key sector of state's economy which provides jobs to thousands of people directly or indirectly."

Dug blamed neighbouring states like Himachal and others for launching what he said a malicious campaign against Kashmir. "During turmoil when our tourism sector was in shambles, our neighbouring states build infrastructure and took advantage our situation. And now they don't want tourism to pick up in Kashmir as it eats affects their business."

According to stakeholders till late 1980s, Kashmir used to attract huge number of domestic as well as foreign tourists, "but the tourism sector received a big jolt with the outbreak of militancy in the year 1989."

The tourist inflow declined continuously for 12 years up to 2002, which remained the peak militancy period in Kashmir, the stakeholders said.

"The tourist rush in 1988 was recorded as the highest. The infrastructure created over the years suffered huge damage. Even as 2002 onwards the tourist arrivals started picking up, but every time there was some untoward that hit this industry," they said.

President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Ashiq echoed similar views saying there is "some deep rooted conspiracy to derail our economy."

"From 2008 we have witnessed that once tourism season starts in Kashmir, something untoward happens which makes tourists reconsider their decision to visit Kashmir," he said.

"Every time the tourism starts picking up, something untoward happens that derails it again," he said.

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