Tourists Arrive In Kashmir Much Early This Year

31 March 2009
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Here is a hope for Kashmir. After a dismal summer last year, tourists have finally started to arrive in Kashmir valley. Reasons: massive participation of people in J-K assembly elections hinting towards the return of peace and an unusually favourable weather in the valley. This spring Kashmir has a good beginning. Even as the tourist season – from mid April to mid June – is yet to start, a large number of domestic tourists have already visited Kashmir valley this spring. The arrival of large number of tourists to the valley follows an unprecedented winter. A large number of domestic and international tourists thronged the ski resorts of Gulmarg this winter thus giving a hope to the J-K’s tourism department. “This year, the tourist arrival in valley has started early,” said Riyaz Qureshi, a senior official and Private Secretary to Kashmir’s Director Tourism. “Our tourist season normally starts from May but the opening of the Tulip garden and good weather attracted tourists to valley much earlier”. The arrival of a large number of tourists to valley despite the recession has given hope to valley’s tourism department and they expect a mega tourist season this year. “Everyday, we are receiving large number of queries from outside,” said Qureshi. The tourists, who arrived in valley, mostly belong to South India, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat. Last year, the tourist season in the valley also had a good beginning and more than four lakh tourists had arrived in valley by mid June. However, the Amarnath land row played spoilsport as the massive public agitation, first in Kashmir valley, then in Jammu followed by another round of pro-freedom marches in valley kept the tourists away. However, massive participation of people in the J-K assembly elections last year has given the tourists a sense of return of peace in the valley and they have started to arrive much early. In fact, a large number of skiers and adventure tourists visited Gulmarg this winter after the peaceful completion of the state assembly elections. The pleasant weather has also played a role in attracting the tourists early this year. This year, the months of February and March were unusually hot thus attracting more tourists especially from south India. The return of tourists to the valley has given hope to the Kashmir’s tourism department and it has launched a campaign to brand Kashmir as an all time tourist season. The department is focusing on the high-spending tourists from Middle East and is hopeful that the connectivity between the Srinagar and Dubai international airports will give a boost to international tourism in the valley.