Kashmir tourism free-fall continues

With tourism in slump, the hotel occupancy in Kashmir has fallen below 5 percent.

Tourism sector, which contributes 7 percent to J&K’s gross domestic product, is considered one of the major job generators in Kashmir.

Since 2019, the tourism sector in Kashmir has been in doldrums.

The first jolt came when government ordered all the tourists to leave Kashmir ahead of the Government of India’s decision to abrogate its special status in 2019.

Then it was pandemic which hit the tourism industry globally.

According to the hoteliers, the occupancy rate is less than 5 percent which is making it harder for them to even meet the recurring expenses.

“As our sector is service oriented, even for one guest we have to provide all the facilities, which implies that we have to pay to our staff, meet recurring expenses and electricity charges. Hoteliers are facing a slew of problems. Ironically, there has not been any help from the government,” said Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers’ Club, Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya.

“It is very hard for the tourism stakeholders to sustain if the government doesn’t come forward with a financial package for this sector. More than seven lakh people are affiliated with the tourism sector. Our hotels are empty, hoteliers are facing financial problems,” he said.

Chairman, Indian Association of Tour Operators, J&K, Ladakh Chapter, Nasir Shah said that there was no major relief for Kashmir’s tourism sector.

“Though some budgeted tourists are coming, the number is too small. It is less than 5 percent. But the tourism department and tourism players are making every effort to promote the tourism sector and encourage the intending visitors to come to Kashmir.”

Director, Tourism Kashmir, Nisar Ahmad said that the tourists are slowly returning to Kashmir.

“Due to the consistent efforts to promote Kashmir tourism, the number of arrivals is picking up amid COVID19. It may take some time, but an encouraging sign is that the tourists are visiting Kashmir,” he said.

According to officials of the Tourism department, around 43,000 tourists arrived in the period between August and December last year.

The figure was just 19,000 till September this year, with most of the arrivals before March.

However, according to industry players, there are signs of the tide gradually turning after the government opened J&K for tourism in July.

They said several tourists visited Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam.