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Tourism back in full swing in Valley as tourists arrive in droves

Tourism back in full swing in Valley as tourists arrive in droves
Tourism is back in full swing as the tourists are arriving in droves in the Kashmir Valley even as the first quarter of this year saw low influx of arrivals. The tourism saw signs of recovery since the beginning of last month, when the Asia’s largest tulip garden was thrown open to public.

‘Following the Afzal Guru hanging, tourist bookings got cancelled and the number of tourist arrivals had dropped drastically. There was much hopelessness. However, from April, we have seen an increase in influx of tourists,’ said Chairman Houseboat Owners Association Kashmir Muhammad Azim Tuman. His own travel agency had received 12 cancellations after the 2001 Parliament convict Mohammad Afzal Guru was hanged in February in Tihar jail.

The Valley was on edge after his death spreading a wave of anger and protests in the region. The hanging was followed by a 13 March suicide attack on the outskirts of Srinagar city at Bemina. The daredevil attack by two LeT militants had claimed five paramilitary personnel. Both the events created an uncertainty among tourism players, expecting surge in tourist arrivals.

Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Alliance (JKTA) chairman Nasir Shah revealed that the arrivals would go up to 60-70 percent by the end of this month. ‘We were optimistic that tourist arrival will touch a new high this year.  However, Afzal Guru factor and the Bemina suicide attack damaged the prospects. Inventories were cancelled by several tourism agencies in the country in the aftermath. That was quite worrying,’ Shah told The Millennium Post adding ‘now it’s picking up’.

The optimism among stakeholders got reinforced after the tulip garden saw 1.06 lakh footfalls of tourists for a period of one-month advancing the tourism season.

‘We are receiving queries as well as bookings from May 10 onwards,  the official date for the school vacations in Maharashtra and Gujarat. That way, we expect things are turning in our favour,’ said Tuman.

The government and the tourism planners had termed 2012 as an eventful year for the trade. They were expecting  the current season would surpass last year’s record. However, the fallout of Afzal hanging had made stakeholders fret about the loss of businesses. Witnessing less violence or a relatively calm, Kashmir was beset with around 12 lakh tourists last year.

‘The flow of tourists in February and March was quite low. Now tourists are arriving here. The current occupancy rate of hotels stays around 60 percent,’ said the president of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association Showkat Chowdhary.
Moazum Mohammad

Moazum Mohammad

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