September floods still haunt Kashmir tourism industry

A year has passed since floods hit Kashmir; the tourism sector continues to be affected with arrivals falling by 80 percent presently thus giving sleepless nights to tourism players in the Valley.
September floods still haunt Kashmir tourism industryEven though the government led by the Chief Minister himself took the publicizing task, but the move seems to have failed as presently majority of the destinations are receiving tourists below 20 percent.
The tourism sector from last two years has been witnessing a sharp decline in the number of tourist arrivals which is leading huge loss to the stakeholders who had invested in the business over the years.
Since September floods, the tourism industry has been witnessing tough time as the tourists started preferring other destination over Kashmir.
While earlier this year the Kashmir tourism started picking up after government sent its various delegation to outside states for creating publicity but the number was negligible compared to the previous year before floods.
With just 120547 number of visitors, even the Asia’s biggest Indra Gandhi Memorial Memorial Tulip Garden has failed to lure the tourists this year.
With this downfall the tourism players are worried about the sector which is the second biggest and largest employee provider industry in Kashmir.
“Presently we are facing huge losses as there is sharp decline in the tourist arrival. Around 10 to 20 percent of the tourists compared to previous year will be presently in Kashmir. The steps taken by the government has not worked at all as it has failed to counter the negative publicity created due to the floods and other incidents, “said president Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Peerzada Fayaz Ahmad.
He said the Amarnath Yatra had also declined as less pilgrims had visited valley compared to the previous years.
“The Yatra was also less this year. The Amarnath Yatra had declined to around 20 percent. It seems that the previous year’s floods had created a fear psychosis among people outside Kashmir,” he added.
The tourism players said that the figures mentioned by the tourism department regarding the tourist arrival were not actual. “They lack the mechanism to decide about the tourist number. They have kept some men along the National Highway who counts people in buses as tourists whether it is a labourer or carpenter,” Peerzada Fayaz said.
The tourist players said that the Katra in Jammu has received almost 1.5 crore visitors while less preferred to extend their visit to Kashmir.
Meanwhile the hoteliers said that they have faced losses worth rupees hundreds of crores as the hotel occupancy has been below 5 percent this season.
“Right now less than 5 percent of the hotels will be occupied. Even during Amarnath Yatra very less number of hotels were occupied. The government has failed to bring tourism industry out of the floods which affected it last year,” said President Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurants Owners Federation on (KHROF) Faiz Ahmad Bakshi
The tourism players said that the national media and government itself has created negative publicity during the early months of tourism season in Kashmir.
Meanwhile officials in the tourism department said that the government has appointed a PR agency in New Delhi to promote Kashmir tourism in other states and countries.

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