Tourism Slump Costs 50000 Jobs In Kashmir

21 December 2015
Rising Kashmir
Ishfaq Naseem

Srinagar: The hoteliers across Kashmir valley have cut down the staff due to slump in tourism industry with over 50,000 people losing jobs after the occupancy fell down to 15 percent. The drastic decline in number of tourists visiting the State has resulted in job losses even in the high-end hotels. Officials said the occupancy has declined across the different hotel ranges and is even less than 15 percent in some low-end segments. 'Kashmir has witnessed near 2 lakh decrease in the tourist numbers against last year's arrival of 11 lakh including low and upper high end segments,' they said. However, Director Tourism, Kashmir, Mehmood Ahmad Shah, said the numbers were still robust as Kashmir bounced back from the after-effects of the floods. He, however, said they are looking at the better season ahead as the tourism players' brace up to add newer properties in their portfolio. The industry honchos said the number of tourists visiting the State is 'a mere trickle' even as the winter has already set in and tourist resorts including Gulmarg has received a heavy snowfall. The fall in the tourist numbers has taken a toll on the hotel industry as their earnings have taken a hit due to which they have resorted to downsizing of staff. President of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHARA), Showkat Choudhary, said the job cuts have taken place across the property segments due to decline in the tourist arrivals. 'There are over 12,000 hotels which function in different property ranges including that in the low end, budgeted, high end and upper high end class,' he said. Choudhary said while 11 lakh people are associated with the hotel industry and get livelihood because of tourist arrivals. 'Over 4 lakh people are on the rolls of different hotels,' he said adding since the business is dull; the hoteliers had no option but to cut down the staff. Even as the government said infrastructure damage has caused the losses to the industry, the tourism players said higher air-fare and lack of connectivity had further lead to the decline. Manzoor Siddiq, president Travel Agents Association, said tourism has not picked up due to lack of connectivity. 'During the peak tourism season, airlines heavily increase rates and it becomes more costly for people to travel to Kashmir than Dubai. Besides, frequent closure of Jammu-Srinagar highway and lack of train service is another bottleneck,' he added.