Kashmir Observer

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Srinagar- With the start of the spring season coinciding with the endemic of the coronavirus, tourism stakeholders in the valley are optimistic and expect a major turnaround in the summer tourism of Jammu and Kashmir which suffered sharply during the first and of the second wave of the pandemic.

Relevantly, while the devastating influence of COVID-19 has somehow subsided, Kashmir’s economy has finally found encouragement to fully open up to the world, especially after a steady increase in the Tourist visitation has dangled a hopeful glimpse into Kashmir’s tourism industry over the winter. month.

But many businesses that depend on tourism, including tour operators and hoteliers, are seeing signs that even more tourists, compared to winter visitation, could start pouring in as the summer season approaches, kicking off much-needed thumbs-up for tourism players in the valley.

“Tourism players have made a relatively better profit in the past four months than during the two brutal Covid waves,” says Kamran Habib, a trainee pilot who moved to Srinagar and started working as a tour operator during the first Covid wave. .

“The first reservations filled the months of March and April. All rooms are sold out in Gulmarg, Gurez, Lolab, Pahalgam and other parts of the valley.

According to Kamran, the total percentage of reservations has increased by 80% compared to the summer months of 2020 and 2021. “Our fraternity has been the most affected in the last two years. But if bookings continue to grow at the same rate, the tourism industry can maintain its original shape in terms of economy.

According to the data available with Kashmir Observer, for the first time since 2015, the number of tourist arrivals for the month of November 2021 hit a record high of 1,25,605 and in January and February 2022 over 1.5 lakh tourists visited Gulmarg with over 80 000 national tourists.

Khursheed, a hotelier and houseboat owner said Kashmir Observer that the government’s decision to organize various “tourism stimulation” programs and to open the Mughal Gardens at full capacity has led to a massive increase in bookings for the coming months.

“Even though we received over a million tourists in January and February this year, I am sure that the number of tourists arriving in Kashmir will see a massive increase during the summer months. gradually and if it continues, the numbers will increase in April, May and June,” he said.

According to tour operators, hundreds of high-end domestic tourists arrive in Kashmir in helicopters and chartered flights, which boosts the tourism economy significantly compared to other domestic tourist arrivals.

Tour operators have also said that apart from Gulmarg, domestic tourists who wish to explore Kashmir book their stay for Gurez Valley in the months of April, May and June.

“The government has decided to open the tulip garden from the first week of April and because of this, the bookings have also increased. Most of these bookings are from domestic customers,” says Kamran.

Mohammed Ashraf, an owner of Shikara, said Kashmir Observer that the Tourism Department’s plan to promote Jammu and Kashmir nationally and internationally is a commendable job as hundreds of tourists throng Dal Lake every day.

“And since the introduction of the floating cinema in Dal, more and more customers are willing to take a Shikara ride,” says Ashraf.

Talk to Kashmir ObserverTourism Secretary, Sarmad Hafeez said that due to various programs and festivals organized last year by the Department of Tourism with local stakeholders, tourism in Kashmir has been the highest in the country.

“For summer tourism, the department will intensify its efforts to organize various programs and events in various parts of the country to attract more and more tourists to the Kashmir Valley,” Hafeez said.

The tourism secretary said his department will hold many spring festivals over the next month.

“We will have Badamwari Spring Festival, Yusmarg, Gurez and Tulip Garden Spring Festival. We spread Kashmir tourism to every corner of J&K. The department will organize road shows and other programs in 21 cities across India with the aim of attracting more tourists to J&K,” adds Hafeez.

Notably, it is for the first time in several years that J&K’s tourism department has renamed the status of several tourist destinations as “all-season” places, with the aim of energizing the tourist industry and relieving the actors whose work had suffered brutally since 2019.

“We have asked tourism stakeholders to prepare in terms of facilities and logistics provided to tourists as we are pragmatic that the coming months will bring good tourist footfall in Kashmir,” Hafeez said. Kashmir Observer.

Notably, the Government has also decided to promote tourism potential at full capacity on a larger scale in collaboration with stakeholders.

“As the Covid situation in the country improves, the Department will once again undertake promotional activities in various tourist markets across the country. We are working to improve the experience of tourists by introducing new and more concepts like the floating theater in Dal Lake.The department has also decided to launch paragliding services in Jammu.In addition to paragliding, we will have paragliding and mountain biking services available at J&K.said the Tourism Secretary.

The tourism department has also asked stakeholders to help the department promote the 75 offbeat destinations identified by the department through J&K.

“We asked all stakeholders to come up with attractive and competitive packages so that more and more tourists are persuaded to visit J&K,” Hafeez said.

“And we hope there will be more tourists flocking to Kashmir during the summer months than in recent years.” He added.

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