Kashmir witnessed a bad tourism year in 2018 with only 8.5 lakh domestic and foreign tourists visiting valley, a figure lowest in last seven years and showing a decline of 23 percent from 2017.
Kashmir received 11 lakh tourists in 2017, which means 2.5 lakh less arrivals in 2018 despite a number of promotional events by the tourism department with India as well as in some foreign countries as well.
Businessmen associated with the travel trade and hospitality sector say they are facing huge losses due to decline in footfall.
Even as the states like Bihar and Jharkhand are witnessing increase in footfall of visitors, the tourism hotspot in the state of J&K, Kashmir, which for decades has been a go-to spot for holiday makers, is now failing to woo visitors.
In fact the situation as far as the tourism sector is considered is turning from bad to worse for Kashmir looking at the tourist influx.
A look at the official figures of tourist arrivals to Kashmir reveals a sordid tale.
In 2012, 13,08,765 tourists including both domestic and foreign visited Kashmir, the number has gone down to mere 8.5 lakh in 2018 as per a recent announcement by the advisor to governor, Khurshid Ganai who heads the tourism department at the ministerial level during the president's rule. It means a decline of over 4.5 lakh tourists meaning a 35 percent dip in tourist arrivals in 6 years keeping 2012 as base year.
Ironically, as per the official figures, since 2012 there has been constant dip in tourist arrivals to the Valley.
In 2013, the number of tourists including both domestic/foreign who visited Kashmir was 11.71 lakh. In 2014, the year Kashmir witnessed devastated floods causing over Rs 1 lakh crore losses, that year the number of tourists was 11.67 lakh.
In 2015, the number was 9.27 lakh, while in 2016 the number of tourists was 12.12 lakh which is higher than 2018, despite the fact that Valley remained closed for over four months after killing of Hizb commander, Burhan Wani and subsequent civilian killings. In 2017, the number of visitors was recorded at over 11 lakh.
This situation is worrisome for the tourism traders as well as for the economy of the state. The recent parliamentary panel report has blamed the GST implementation for 'negative impact' on tourism sector in Kashmir.
While as the tourism players put onus on the negative perception created by the certain media outlets outside the state.
However a senior tourism official who wished anonymity said, "Only negative perception cannot be blamed for this decline. Situation in Kashmir has turned ugly in last few years due to strife which is affecting the tourist influx. Though it is a known fact that no harm has been done to any tourists but still people fear."