People associated with the trade hope amid despair
Srinagar: The latest data coming to fore reveal the difficult phase through which Kashmir’s tourism industry is passing at present.
As per the reports there is mere 15 per cent occupancy, down from 70-80 per cent a year ago in Kashmir hotels and that the political uncertainty and continued violence has left no scope for this sector to witness any profits this year.
In a bid to rejuvenate Kashmir’s dying tourism industry, the government launched a new five-minute film to counter perceived “negative portrayal of Kashmiris” and highlight the hospitality offered by Valley locals to visitors. The video, Warmest Place on Earth, garnered over 1.5 million views on Facebook and 35 thousand views on YouTube in a little over 24 hours. It was released by the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti at a grand launch function in Srinagar on Saturday evening attended by senior minister and top officials.
However on ground, the hotel owners say the situation hasn’t changed at all. According to them, their hotels continue to wear deserted looks with tourists not preferring to visit valley amid the hostile situation.
As per the reports, the year proved worst for Kashmir’s tourism sector after 2016 that witnessed five months violence that resulted in the killing of 90 people.
According to figures from the government’s tourism department, some 403,000 tourists visited the valley during the first four months of 2016, but only 181,000 tourists arrived during the same period this year — revealing a dreadful dip of 56 percent.
Some 20 percent of the state’s 12.5 million people directly or indirectly depend on tourism for their livelihoods.
Data compiled by the Indian Journal of Economics and Development in 2016 show that 425,000 people are directly dependent on tourism for their income. They include management and employees of hotels, houseboats, guest houses, restaurant dormitories and tent houses.
A further 2.1 million Kashmiri people indirectly depend on tourism, such as taxi drivers, shopkeepers, vendors and fruit sellers.
Tourism accounts for 7 percent of the state’s income and is considered an important sector of Kashmir’s economy. The state government, as per official records, has spent over US$ 1 million on promotional campaigns and advertising in the Indian and international media.
(With inputs from KNS)