August 2016 News

Tourist Season Hit Hard By Unrest

31 August 2016
The Daily Excelsior
Suhail Bhat

Srinagar: The unrest in Kashmir, which has entered its 54th day today is badly affecting tourism in Kashmir and so far around four lakh tourists have cancelled their visit. The tourism sector, which is believed to be the major contributor towards the employment and economy in the State, has been dented badly by the ongoing unrest. Mushtaq Ahmad, a hotel owner at Pahalgam, while lamenting about the 'zero occupancy' of his hotel said that the majority of the hotels across Valley are empty. 'We have not seen any tourist after 10th of July and all our rooms are vacant. This was peak tourist season. All the hotels used to be full of tourists. There used to be hustle and bustle of tourists in Pahalgam this season but the unrest has ruined it all,' he said. When asked about the status of the advanced bookings, Mushtaq said: 'Nearly 40 percent of the bookings have been cancelled so far and next few days more tourists are likely to cancel the bookings. If the situation improves, the tourists might not cancel their bookings.' The tour operators are flooded with cancellations and some of the trips have already been diverted to other Himalayan regions. 'Last year not a single room was vacant during this time in Kashmir but these days the hotels are empty. I continuously get enquiries about the situation in Kashmir. All bookings have cancelled. These are worrying signs for the Kashmir tourism,' said a tour operator, Farhat Ahmad. Last year, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department invested lavishly on the marketing of Kashmir as a tourism destination and has held exhibition marts at various parts of country and abroad to attract more tourists but experts believed that after the unrest is over, they have to start everything anew. The tourists in Kashmir valley remained confined to their hotels in earlier days of unrest last month after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzzafar Wani and later they left for their home-States in huge numbers either by air or road during night. Some of the tourists also left for Ladakh region of the State. Director Tourism, Mehmood Shah while expressing concern over the prevailing situation said the loss cannot be quantified at the moment. 'You cannot quantify the loss. Major chunk of population is directly or indirectly associated with tourism and it effects them all. This was the peak season of our tourism wherein we receive majority of tourists. But the footfall has declined drastically due to the current unrest.' When asked about the possible revival of the business, he said: 'We have to start the whole process again which is the most unfortunate thing.'