Kashmir’s tourism sector has been hit for the second year amid continued unrest in the Valley, with most tourists preferring Shimla. The Valley’s tourist destinations wear a deserted look. Just a handful visit the Dal lake, where shikaras mostly remain anchored.
“This year, only 10 per cent of the expected tourists have come to Kashmir. This is our peak season and we are without any tourists,” says Shikara Owners’ Association president Wali Mohammad. “The last 10 months were horrific for us. And this time, there is absolutely no business.’’
There was a steep decline in tourist flow from July last year when militant commander Burhan Wani’s killing triggered five-month-long street protests. “Last year, we had received 11.2 lakh tourists in Kashmir until July. And this time, we have failed to get even 50 per cent of that as of now,” says tourism director Mehmood Ahmad Shah. “We organised roadshows in different states of India and abroad… but we are not getting the expected response.’’
Many blame the media, especially television channels, for “negative” portrayal of Kashmir. “Negative messages on television have created deep … (mistrust) between the people of India and Kashmir,” says Hoteliers Club chairman Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya. “Twenty-five lakh people who are associated with tourism industry in Kashmir are absolutely hopeless and helpless.’’