February 2005 News

Snowfall Has Tourists Skating Away From J&K

22 February 2005
The Times of India

Mumbai: It saw a boost in tourism of nearly 130% last year. But the heavy snowfall and avalanches have brought about a temporary lull in the tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir. About 20% tours have been cancelled or postponed, said tour agents in Mumbai. 'We were scheduled to go this week but now we have postponed our trip to March 4,' said Nikhil Majumdar, a chartered accountant. While postponements may only have brought about changes in schedule for some, for those who booked Apex fares it also means a monetary loss. 'Around 40% of our clients had booked on Apex fares and now they have lost their money,' said Veena Patil, a tour operator. The 30- day advance booking for Mumbai-Delhi-Jammu costs about Rs 6,000, a good 50% less than the regular fare. With the prime road route,National Highway 1 A, being buried under 8-10 feet of snow for the last one week, the tales in the city's tourism offices are all about stranded tourists and postponed trips. 'A shopkeeper provided us shelter for three days as roads got blocked,' said Sujit Patil, a tour operator who was stranded first in Banihal, then in Ramsoo, both mofussil towns up North last week. 'I have never seen so much chaos at the Jammu domestic airport. Flights were overbooked and it resembled a railway station,' added Patil who has been touring Kashmir for the last 35 years. However, for the tourism industry it all has a silver lining and analysts have predicted a good season ahead. The peak season in J&K is from April 15 to June 15 with the attraction being the melting snow and pleasant winter. 'Usually snow melts by the end of April, which means there is a rush in the first month. This year though, we will be changing our advertisements as snow peaks and valleys will be around till May. We expect a boost in bookings,' said Abhijit Patil, a tour operator. Meanwhile, the current fears of a total infrastructure collapse were allayed on Sunday as skies cleared and snowfall stopped. 'Even two more days of snowfall would have brought damages as the hotel roof would have caved in,' said a hotel manager from Srinagar.


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