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J&K floods leave Srinagar tourism biz waterlogged

Ghulam Hassan, a taxi driver, was hopeful that after this tourist season he would be able to payback all the instalments of his bank-loan that he had taken from a private bank to buy his vehicle. Floods shattered all his hopes. After suffering huge losses during the 2008 and 2010 unrest in the Kashmir Valley, the people associated with the tourism industry were hopeful to make some recovery, but the floods have left their hopes shattered.

With the militancy-related violence at its lowest ebb, the Kashmir Valley was enjoying a huge influx of domestic and foreign tourists but following the floods of September 7, the majority of the tourists present in the Valley have returned. Many like Hassan are struggling hard to make both ends meet after the disastrous flood.

‘Before the floods hit the Srinagar city, my taxi was booked for the entire season and I was hopeful that I would be able to payback all the installments of the loan that I had borrowed from the bank to buy the taxi,’ Hassan said. Hassan says, ’A dark future lies ahead for me and my entire family’ as following the floods all the tourists have left Kashmir and there was no hope of their return in the near future.

Once counted amongst the famous tourist hotspot of the Kashmir Valley, the renowned Boulevard Road situated on the banks of Dal Lake, today present a deserted look. Most of the houseboats in the Dal Lake are empty, while many have been severely damaged by the floodwater, making them dangerous for people to live in. ‘We have been hit hard, our livelihood has been baldy affected. All the tourists present in the Valley have already left and those who were supposed to come have cancelled their visit,’ Shabeer Ahmed a houseboat owner said. Several houseboats were in dire need of renovation as they were left defunct for several years following the increase in militancy related violence.

Encouraged by the influx of tourists following the decline in militancy-related incidents, the houseboat owners here had invested a huge amount of money on the renovation of their boats. ‘The houseboat owners had suffered a huge loss during the years of militancy, but as the militancy related incidents were declining, we saw a ray of hope as the tourist influx had increased manifolds,’ Firdous Ahmed Ganie another houseboat owner said.

The hotel industry in Kashmir too has a similar tale to tell; with infrastructural damages running into crores the hotels here are faced with huge losses following the cancellation of bookings by the guests. ‘A large number of hotels near the Dal Lake have suffered irreparable damages, these hotels have now become unsafe. Others have suffered damages that could take crores of rupees,’ said Ghulam Qadir a hotel owner in Srinagar.

He said that apart from wreaking havoc in Kashmir, the floods have completely destroyed the tourism industry, thus affecting the livelihood of around a million people who were directly or indirectly associated with the industry. ‘It might take several years before things return to their pristine glory,’ he said.

An official of the Jammu and Kashmir government said, ‘The tourism industry of Kashmir is the worst hit with the recent floods and lakhs of tourists have already cancelled their bookings.’ The official said that it would take long before the tourists start returning to the Valley.

The revival of the tourism industry is now an uphill task. ‘The damage to tourism infrastructure is humongous and its restoration would take huge amount of time,’ said the official.
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