Published on : Thursday, April 29, 2021
The reappearance of corona virus across India has brought Kashmir’s tourist industry back to square one. Majority of hoteliers and houseboat owners are witnessing mass cancelation of bookings for the upcoming summer season.
In the first quarter of the year, the Valley experienced a multi-fold increase in tourist footfalls and business was looking good after two poor seasons. “Since January the tourists have been coming in huge numbers and we were expecting a good summer this year,” said the president of the Travel Agent Society of Kashmir, Mir Anwar. Mr. Anwar, however, lamented that the reappearance of the virus has “washed away “the entire summer.
Mr. Anwar added that all bookings have been canceled and there are no signs of tourism revival before the summer season. “The second wave is turning out to be more dangerous. Everyone is trying to save his life by staying indoors. So, all the pre-bookings till May end stands cancelled for us,” he said.
Chairperson of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Alliance, Manzoor Ahmad Paktoon said that around 80 per cent of the houseboats are empty in Kashmir and hotel occupancy has dropped by more than 80 per cent in the last three weeks. “The tourists who have pre-booked and have no option to refund are in Valley right now. Rest of the visitors have either cancelled or shortened their visit,” he said.
Mr. Paktoon said that the tour operators and hotel owners had already resorted to layoffs. “Some have cut salaries while others fired employees. This is disturbing as several families will get affected and run into a difficult situation,” he added.
The crash in tourist arrivals has forced some owners to completely close down their hotels. If the situation persists, they might be forced to switch to some other business.
This winter, the hill-stations of the Valley witnessed an awesome tourist flow with all hotels in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Srinagar sold out till April. The opening of Asia’s largest Tulip garden also ensured an early start of the tourist season.
The aggressive campaigning by the Tourism Department had also attracted a number of filmmakers to shoot their films in the Valley, with around 26 films being shot in the last four months itself.