5% Hotel occupancy in ‘Peak’ tourist season

Even as tourist arrivals in the Kashmir valley have remained on the lower side this year, the hoteliers are among the worst hit. The stakeholders say there is just around five per cent occupancy rate in hotels at a time usually considered to be the prime tourist season.
“There is just around five per cent occupancy. Kashmir hotels have got bed capacity of around 70,000 and there are just a few thousand tourists. This is like a drop in the ocean in the summer months usually considered to be the prime tourism season,” said Association of Hotel & Restaurant Operators of Lal Chowk chairman Siraj Ahmad.
Ahmad, who is also the former president of the Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association, said there seemed to be a little chance of tourist industry’s revival this year due to “political uncertainty.” “First and foremost, negative media coverage (of Kashmir affairs) is responsible for the low footfall. Then there is a lot of political uncertainty. The row over Article 35A can snowball. The extension of goods and services tax too has hit the tourism sector,” he said.
Pertinently, the tourism sector had been hit hard by the unrest last year sparked by the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016. Though the tourists are back in a trickle, the sector is yet to revive strongly this year.
The new hoteliers have been hit harder by the slump. Imtiyaz Ahmad Wani, owner of the City Star Guest House located at the Hari Singh High Street in the heart of Srinagar city, had opened his hotel last year but then kept it shut this year.
“Last year, I opened my hotel but just a month later it had to be shut due to the unrest. I suffered losses last year as I had employed many people to manage the hotel and restaurant. And since the arrivals remained very low this year, I preferred to keep it shut this year,” Imtiyaz said.
Even as the Tourism Department had invited travel agents on familiarisation tours and participated in a series of travel marts outside the Valley to bring back tourists, Director Tourism Mahmood Shah too said exaggerated media reporting was harming the sector.

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