April 2018 News

Amid Uncertainty, Tourists From Gujarat, Maharashtra Give Kashmir A Miss

22 April 2018
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: On a sunny day in Srinagar, Muhammad Sultan Anchari is eagerly waiting at Ghat No. 8 on Dal Lake for tourists to hire his shikara for Dal ride. Till evening, he doesn't receive a single customer and ultimately leaves for home, dejected. There are two other shikara walas - Javid Ahmad Akhoon and Shabir Ahmad- who say they are disgusted with the thought of having to return home empty-handed in the evening. 'It is disheartening to see that tourist arrivals to Kashmir have reduced to a trickle now,' says Anchari while sipping namkeen tea in his shikara named 'Armstrong'. The lesser influx of tourists to Kashmir over last few years has affected thousands of families affiliated with the tourism sector. This year, though, government in collaboration with tour operators and hoteliers organised a national level promotion campaign - TAAI convention- in Srinagar on March 28, it was followed by civilian killings and shutdowns which undid any good perception created by the tourism department across India and abroad. 'Tourists from Gujarat and Maharashtra are giving a miss to Kashmir, there is hardly any tourists coming from these places which is badly hampering our tourist sector,' said chairman, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industries, J&K chapter, Mushtaq Chaya. 'Though TAAI convention created positive buzz about Kashmir tourism, but it was undid by the events that unfolded it. Tourism stakeholders are passing through difficult phase as they continue to incur huge business losses.' Chairman, Kashmir Economic Forum, Showkat Chowdhary said there is deliberate attempt by certain quarters to derail the Kashmir economy. 'A fake report by a leading national paper was carried stating that tourists were attacked in Kashmir which is far from truth. But these type of reports are circulated across India which create panic among intending tourists.' Public works minister, Naeem Akhter wrote on his Facebook account: 'Substantial number of people who have invested in hotels, guest houses, etc in Srinagar have approached me over the past couple of months seeking my intervention in asking the estates department or the security agencies to hire their facilities.' 'Obviously, we are facing an economic crunch. The facilities in which people have invested their life savings or even raised loans to build are out of business. While we invest in tourism infrastructure or any economic activity, everybody hopes to live a decent life, irrespective of the political beliefs or ideology.' Akhtar in his 250 word status wrote that this year the season had started with high hopes about the revival of tourism as TAAI convention was organised successfully in Kashmir, 'but, soon the stone pelting discourse reappeared with all the small and big investors struck by understandable panic'. The investment that someone makes is not for himself alone but for the benefit of a larger number of people and everybody's focus is on his own children as its first beneficiaries, he said. 'It is no wisdom investing in tourism and doing everything that could put the tourists off.'