Ban lifted, but Valley still awaits tourists
Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir government has begun an all-out effort to woo tourists, more than two months after evicting them from the Valley.
The officials said that there are encouraging signs of tourists returning to Kashmir as dozens of holidaymakers from various parts of the country visited the Valley's
premier resort Gulmarg past week and more are expected to come in coming days.
'This is a good sign. We're hopeful of tourists — both domestic and foreign — coming to the Valley in large numbers again with the onset of winter when Gulmarg would be buzzing with skiing and other snow-related activity,' said director of tourism (Kashmir) Nisar Ahmad Wani.
However, several tour operators and other stakeholders said enticing tourists in the situation prevailing in the Valley may not be an easy task.
In the first week of August, thousands of tourists who were holidaying in Kashmir quit the scenic Valley in haste after the state government asked them and Amarnath pilgrims to cut short their trip and return to their respective states.
Wani is optimistic about tourism revival in the Valley despite impediments. He said, 'We're hundred and one percent sure about tourism getting revived in the Valley, if not in October and November but certainly in December when skiing and other winter sports will begin in Gulmarg'.
His optimism in based on the fact that even after thousands of bookings were cancelled in the aftermath of Pulwama attack and again when a war-like situation between India and Pakistan was set off by the Balakot airstrikes, tourists soon started coming to Kashmir again.
He said that in February 2019, about 14,000 tourists had visited Kashmir and the arrivals went up by 7,000 in March. 'In June as many as 1.70 lakh and in July 1.55 lakh tourists came to Kashmir. So it suggests there is every probability of our getting visitors in large numbers once again,' he said.
He added, 'We hope things will get better. We're making efforts for it as well. In fact, people have already started coming to Kashmir for holidays'.
He said that internet service has been restored in Gulmarg and that several hotels in Srinagar are also getting it soon.
'We've kept ten computers which are connected to internet at the Tourist Reception Centre in Srinagar to facilitate tourists,' he said.