Amid Unrest, Kashmir Toursim Takes A Hit
With Kashmir reeling under curfew amid the unrest in the aftermath of July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Burhan Wani’s, the tourism has taken a massive hit in the Valley with officials fearing there were little chances of revival of the activity this summer. “ Till l ast m onth w e w ere r eceiving a t least 8000 to 10000 tourists every day. But now the numbers have fell down to zero almost during past three weeks,” said an official of the Tourisms Department of the level of Deputy Director.
Another official said around four lakh tourists had already visited Kashmir since the onset of the tourist season this year. A renowned tour operator of the Valley, who wished not to be named, said they were bracing up for the best season. “After the beginning of the tourist season this year we had had best ever first few months. The arrival of the tourists was picking up. But now everything has been lost as tourists are fleeing the Valley,” he said. The tour operator said most of the hotels in different tourist destinations had got advanced booking and there was not space available in the hotels in the summer capital.
However at the same time he said the tourisms should not be the priority when the killing of the civilians continued. “There is no end to the killings and that is the huge worry,” he said. Chairman of pilgrim and leisure tourism forum, Nasir Shah told a New Delhi based newspaper that in past one month Kashmir would get 6,000 tourists per day, who would come by air.
Till last month we were receiving at least 8000 to 10000 tourists every day, said a tourism department official, adding the numbers have now fell to zero almost during past three weeks.
However, he said, since the unrest broke-out in Kashmir there has been mass cancellations. “All tourists are perfectly safe and those who were trying to move out, we ensured they reach their destination safely. Tourists didn’t face any problem anywhere”, Shah said. Talking about the grim situation in the tourism sector in the Valley, a senior official of the tourism department said more than 80 per cent of tourists have already left the Valley.
“It is not only the present that we are worried about. The unrest will have its impact on the coming tourism season in winter and if the situation prolongs we could be in for big setback to the tourism industry,” the official said. Mubashir Hussain, who runs a hotel in Pahalgam, said, “the tourists have stopped visiting Pahalgam. Almost all the hotels are empty now. We don’t have any tourist in our hotel now though we had advanced bookings for this season,” he said. For the first time in recent past the scenic Pahalgam was put under strict curfew after protests broke out in Kashmir during the second week of July after the killing of Burhan Wani.
Back in Srinagar’s Dal Lake, the houseboats are without tourists and shikaras have been parked near the banks for days together now. “There is no business and it is very disappointing. This is the season usually when the Dal Lake would be full of tourists,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a houseboat owner. As per the estimates more than 80,000 tourists have left Kashmir in the last two weeks.
“The arrivals have come down to zero,” said another senior official of the department. He said it was for the first time after the devastating flood of 2014 that the Kashmir tourism had picked up this year. “But today we are back to where we had started in post floods,” he said. While the ongoing unrest has its human cost with civilian getting killing in force’s action , it also has economic cost as the Valley’s trading sectors including industries, hotels and also tourisms have got shut “The sector which has bore the brunt is the tourism and the losses are not just of the valley but entire state as the unrest has affected the business between different regions of the State.
It was for the first time after the devastating flood of 2014 that Kashmir tourism had picked up this year and we were bracing for a good tourist season.
As per our estimates the unrest has caused more than Rs 12,000 crore loss to the state as the peak season of the tourism and related activities have been badly hit,” said a senior official. Weddings postponed Not only has the tourism taken hit in Kashmir the wedding celebrations had to be postponed amid the continuing unrest. In Kashmir the mid- July is considered to be the beginning of the marriage season which last up to the month of October. But now couples across Kashmir have been forced to cancel or postpone their wedding amid continued curfew and restrictions across the Valley. The local dallies appear each day with paid classified ads from hosts announcing the annulment of invitation cards issued for customary wazwan feasts and banquets which had been planned to mark these weddings. Most of them, however, also announce that nikah ceremonies would be held with simplicity.
“We had completed all formalities for the wedding; the cards had been printed and the dates fixed but we had to postpone the marriage in view of the prevailing,” Mushtaq Ahmad of Lone Family from Natipora, Srinagar, said. There is not however the lone case. Hundreds of families in Kashmir had to postpone weddings following the unrest in Kashmir. “We had completed all arrangements for the wedding and we were waiting for 21 July to celebrate. But now the wedding has been postponed; we might held the function in a very simple way,” said Ghulam Nabi, head of another family from Chanpora. Similar cancellations were witnessed in 2010 when protests erupted in the Kashmir and in 2014 when the devastating floods hit the state.
Basharat Ahmad, a resident of Nowhatta cancelled all the invitation to his relatives and friends on his son’s marriage that was scheduled on July, 15, citing the shutdown and prevailing situation in Kashmir. “This is to inform that the marriage ceremony of my son which was scheduled on July 15 has been cancelled due to the prevailing situation. However the other formalities will be solemnized as per program,” the message reads in a newspaper. The Valley is falling short of essential including eatables and mutton which is also believed to be one of the reasons for the mass cancellation of marriages. “How can one perform marriage under the prevailing circumstances when there is shortage of mutton and other essentials,” said Feroz Ahmad of Kupwara who had to cancel the marriage ceremony of his son.