Domestic holidaymakers keep Kashmir tourism sector afloat amid virus scare

In 2020, when the Kashmir region was under severe lockdown due to the pandemic, Kashmir recorded 41267 tourist arrivals.
Out of the total tourist arrivals, as per officials, 99 percent are domestic tourists who preferred to visit Kashmir, while COVID protocols and advisories kept away foreigners.
Out of the total tourist arrivals, as per officials, 99 percent are domestic tourists who preferred to visit Kashmir, while COVID protocols and advisories kept away foreigners.Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: In 2021 Kashmir’s tourism sector witnessed a ‘considerably good season’ in comparison to the past few years bringing cheer to tourism stakeholders, it was the year when the international tourists gave a miss to beautiful locales of Kashmir, but domestic visitors kept the tourism sector afloat amid virus scare.

As per the data collected by the Greater Kashmir, over 6.2 lakh tourists have visited Kashmir so far, of which the highest number of arrivals was recorded in the month of December which surpassed November’s arrival of 1.27 lakh.

Out of the total tourist arrivals, as per officials, 99 percent are domestic tourists who preferred to visit Kashmir, while COVID protocols and advisories kept away foreigners.

Considering these numbers, it is a good sign for the tourism sector, though Kashmir has witnessed many years when more than 15 lakh tourists visited in a year. But considering the COVID threat, these figures are encouraging and at the same good for the tourism business.

In 2020, when the Kashmir region was under severe lockdown due to the pandemic, Kashmir recorded 41267 tourist arrivals.

J&K administration and Kashmir's tourism stakeholders are looking forward to a renewed inflow of tourists. They hope that events like snow carnivals, Christmas, and the new year will attract more tourists to Kashmir.

The tourism department has already taken several measures to ensure that the fear of the Covid-19 contagion doesn’t scare away the visitors. According to government data, over 80 percent of the Tourism service providers have been vaccinated and are safe to welcome travelers from far and wide.

As per tourism players, hotel occupancy has crossed 80 per cent in Kashmir, while ski-resort Gulmarg is jam-packed, so is Pahalgam ahead of New Year celebrations.

Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers Club, Mushtaq Chaya said " There has been a considerable increase in the influx of tourists, Tourism department and tourism stakeholders worked really hard to bring back tourists to Kashmir after the second COVID wave. We are witnessing a considerably good number of arrivals which is an encouraging sign, most of the tourists are high-end and we need to work to get even budget class tourists back to Kashmir in good numbers."

"Tourism sector is one of the key segments of our economy and if it is doing well it aids other sectors of the economy. Hoteliers, travel agents have incurred huge losses since 2019, it will take us years to recover them. But at the same time we are happy that this year has been good in terms of the number of arrivals."

President, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Owners Federation, Abdul Wahid Malik said that the number of tourist arrivals have been constant this year. "Earlier April, May used to be our peak season when there was a lean phase. This year, as during April, May hotels were empty due to COVID, but when the situation eased, we have witnessed a constant number of influx which is good for the tourism sector. Hotels in Pahalgam and Gulmarg are sold out, we are hopeful that next year too this will continue," Malik said.

President, Jammu and Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Association, Showkat Chowdhary said that though the number of tourist arrivals this year was good in comparison to last two years, it is still far behind then our peak tourism years. " COVID has acted as a deterrent, it was because of this that high-end tourists could not visit foreign countries so they preferred Kashmir," Chowdhary said.

President, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, Farooq Kuthoo said " In December we are recording over 6000 arrivals a day which is a good sign for our tourism sector which was in distress. All the hotel rooms are booked in Gulmarg, there is a good number of booking for next month in January and February. We are hopeful that it will continue to be like this next year."

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