Chenani-Nashri tunnel impacts footfall in Patnitop?

The country’s longest surface tunnel — the 9.2-km Chenani-Nashri tunnel — has come as a boon for travellers, but it could have an adverse impact on the tourism sector in Patnitop area in Udhampur district of Jammu region, with Kashmir and Ladakh-bound tourists skipping the popular hill station for a stopover.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the 31-km tunnel on April 2. It has cut short the travel time between Jammu and Srinagar by two hours, bypassing Patnitop, which has some 65 hotels, cottages and guest houses.
Where the impact is visible is Kud, about 8 km from Patnitop. More than 300 small and big shopkeepers in Kud area, famous for ‘patisa’ (a local sweet), claim a huge downfall (90 per cent, according to some) in business activity since the opening of the tunnel.
“We are feeling the pinch of the dwindling tourist footfall during this peak season as there is a 20-25 per cent decline in tourist arrivals, particularly Kashmir and Ladakh-bound tourists who used to make a night halt at Patnitop. No doubt there is a rush of tourists this month but all tourists are locals, coming from Jammu and other towns,” an official of the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) posted at Patnitop area said.
The official added, “Kashmir’s tourism sector has been hit due to the prevailing violence and unrest but the Kashmir-bound tourists, though small in numbers, don’t make a stopover in Patnitop and prefer to take the tunnel route to head towards their destination. The locals are visiting Patnitop because of the intense hot weather conditions in Jammu plains. The visible impact of the tunnel on the tourism sector of this hill station will be seen after the month of July”.
Jatinder Arora, a sweet shop owner at Kud, claimed that some shopkeepers have been forced to close their shops and have now opened their establishments in Narsu area on the highway. “Our source of income has dried up because our business is largely dependent on passengers who travel on the highway. Our business has now reduced only for weekend days.”
The government should seriously think about the livelihood of families of about 300 shopkeepers in the area, he added.
Rinku Dubey, a hotelier, said it was too early to comment about the impact of the tunnel on tourism in Patnitop, “but a decline of tourists has been witnessed in this peak season. This could be due to the unrest in Kashmir. The government will have to take innovative measures, including early completion of the cable car project, to attract tourists”.
Rakesh Sangral, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Patnitop Development Authority (PDA), contested the claims of a dwindling tourist footfall at Patnitop due to opening of the tunnel. He said, “Rather, we have witnessed an increased number of tourists this season. This is an exclusive destination which is easily accessible and has unique serene beauty. For the last 10-15 days, there is full occupancy in hotels and government accommodation.”
Smita Sethi, Director Tourism Jammu, also claimed that the opening of the tunnel, bypassing Patnitop, has made no major impact on tourism in Patnitop. “I joined the office on May 17 and since then, I have not heard of anything like a downfall in the tourist graph. Instead, we are getting a very good footfall of tourists.”