Srinagar: The soaring temperature across several states is forcing tourists to visit Kashmir despite fragile prevailing situation in the Valley. Tourist arrivals during last two weeks have increased by as much as 30-40 per cent, say tour operators, adding that the occupancy rates in hotels and houseboats has also improved.
Ongoing summer vacations in most of the educational institutions and work places in many states are driving tourists in droves to the Valley which has caused the Delhi- Srinagar airfares to skyrocket.
While as per official figures, daily tourist arrivals since last few days have been between 5000-6000, the airfares between Delhi-Srinagar has witnessed a manifold increase touching as much as Rs 17,000 one way per person.
Tourism players have welcomed the increase in arrivals but also demanded that steps must be taken to ensure that more tourists visit the Valley. “There was gloom and doom among tourism industry since last season but the mood has lifted to some extent of late. This has also helped to improve the occupancy rates in hotels and houseboats,” Sajid Ahmad, a hotelier based at Boulevard road told KNO.
Similarly, Pahalgam and Gulmarg based hoteliers are also upbeat about the tourist arrivals saying their promotional activities conducted in several cities has witnessed a good response from tourists. Local tour operators are also keen on arrivals from south-east Asia countries such as Malaysia and even neigbouring Bangladesh.
“The footfalls from these countries had dropped during Ramadhan as they are predominantly Muslim countries. But now we hope that situation here remains favorable for tourism so that we can encourage these foreigners to visit us,” Ershad Ahmad, a tour operator told KNO. Kashmir has also seen an increase in tourist arrivals from neighbouring Punjab and other North India states as other hill stations such as Kullu Manali and Uttrakhand have filled beyond capacity.
There are also people who are destined to go to Ladakh who spend some time in the Valley. Tour operators are focussing a lot on tourist arrivals from Maharashtra and Gujarat which are the two biggest tourist markets for Kashmir.
“Arrivals from both these states had witnessed a nosedive due to negative publicity of the Valley by the national media and some fringe right wing elements. But some Mumbai and Ahmadabad based tour operators successfully ran counter campaigns to over the “Boycott Kashmir” campaign,” said another tour operator.
Tourism officials are optimistic that with annual Amarnath Yatra scheduled to beginning next month, tourism arrivals to the Valley will further improve. Nisar Ahmad Wani, director Tourism Kashmir said they have lined-up a series of promotional events at various health resorts across the Valley in order to woo the tourists, “We hope local flavor such as food and culture will encourage tourists to visit us more often. We are also using social media more aggressively to overcome the negative campaign against Kashmir,” Wani said.