Kashmir Indepth

After decline in covid cases, Thousands of tourists opting to visit Kmr

Ishtiyaq Ahmad

Srinagar, July 8 (KINS): Tourist influx is gradually increasing at several tourist resorts in the Jammu and Kashmir Union territory which was earlier affected during the peak of the second wave of the Covid.

Speaking to news agency KINS, an officer from the tourism department said, “As the cases are on decline, there has been a gradual increase in the number of tourists in the Kashmir valley”.

Talking about Pahalgam, Gulmarg there has been a gradual increase in tourism for the last 10 days.

“I hope that tourists continue to visit this beautiful valley of ours,” the official said.

Many children opted to ride a pony to enjoy the scenic view of the valley. Several pony wallahs were offering rides to tourists just outside the resorts. Atul Sharma, who felt excited to ride a pony, told KINS, “I have come from Haryana to visit Kashmir valley. We are staying at a resort in Pahalgam. Many of my friends opt to travel abroad . But now, I request them to visit this Kashmir valley instead.”

“My family are staying in Pahalgam. Spending on international travel is too costly. Hence, we opted to visit this Kashmir valley. We like it,” said Joti Sharma, another tourist.

Apart from resorts, the hotel businesses too registered a huge influx in tourism.

Muneer Ahmad, a hotelier said, “Many people have this notion that the Pahalgam area is unsafe due to a few attacks. I want to assure them that this valley is completely safe. All the tourists are welcome here. In the past few days, we have registered a growth in our business due to the influx of tourists.”

The tourism sector in Kashmir witnessed major setbacks for the last two years due to the lockdown in the valley after the removal of Article 370 in 2019 and in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“After a long time, the valley has witnessed a good number of tourists. Travel to Europe seems like a distant reality due to Covid, which makes Kashmir the preferred holiday destination . We have ensured that all Covid-19 guidelines are being followed for safety. We are hopeful and are looking forward to a great month ahead of us,” said one of the top hoteliers here in Srinagar.

The cafes and restaurants in Srinagar are abuzz with several tourists visiting the city from across the country.

The two back-to-back years of setbacks have delivered a major economic blow to the tourism sector in Kashmir. Estimates suggest that the Kashmir tourism sector lost around Rs 1,100 crores in just one year.

In 2019, there was a sharp dip of around 34 per cent tourist inflow due to removal of Article 370 and subsequent lockdown. Meanwhile, 2020 saw negligible tourism due to Covid-19 pandemic.

A couple from Maharashtra said that they visited Kashmir for their “honeymoon” as it “felt like the best place to visit” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Another couple from Gujarat said they are elated to be in the valley in the month of  July. “It has been such an enjoyable vacation for us. Whatever we have heard of Kashmir, there is way more than that in terms of beauty. We are happy we chose this place to come,” Vikram, who visited Dal Lake with wife after his recent marriage, from Gujarat said.

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