The tourism industry in Kashmir received major boost as thousands of people from different parts of the country visited the valley to witness snowfall.
The tourism industry in Kashmir received a major boost as thousands of people from different parts of the country visited the valley.
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. However, the beginning of this year looks promising for the Kashmir tourism industry as many tourists flocked to the valley in large numbers to witness snowfall.
Asif Iqbal Burza, president of Pahalgam Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association (PHROA), said Covid-19 guidelines are being followed to ensure safety of the people and the tourists in the valley.
“After a long time, valley has witnessed good number of tourists during the winter season. Travel to Europe seems like a distant reality due to Covid, which makes Kashmir the preferred holiday destination with very low cases. Recently, valley has been blessed with snowfall, which gives more of a reason for tourists to visit this place. We have ensured that all Covid-19 guidelines are being followed for safety. We are hopeful and are looking forward to a great year ahead of us,” Asif Iqbal Burza, president of Pahalgam Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association (PHROA) and Managing Director, Ahad Hotels and Resorts said.
The cafes and restaurants in the Srinagar are abuzz with several tourists visiting the city from across the country.
Roofie Nazki, who owns a famous tea-shop in Srinagar, said fresh snowfall has helped her business as it has increased the number of tourists visiting Kashmir.
“There is a good rush of tourists to our place in past few days. The snowfall has added to the whole charm of the valley. We have seen many tourists from across the country visiting our cafe. It is a good sign for all of us. Our Kashmiri specialities like Kehwa and harissa are the hot favourites,” Roofie Nazki, who owns the famous tea-shop called Chai Jaai on the bund of river Jehlum in Srinagar, said.
The two back-to-back year 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.
The government’s tourism department, however, is hopeful that this year things will be better.
“There is good demand this year. Out of the total available 1800 hotel rooms in Gulmarg, almost all of the rooms are booked till the end of February-March. If the Covid-19 vaccine roll out begins, we may see a good year ahead,” Nisar Ahmad Wani, Director Tourism, said.
Covid-19 protocols in Kashmir
In Kashmir, every visitor is asked to go for a quick Covid-19 test. Tourists visiting the valley have to undergo Covid-19 test at the airport or they are advised to carry their coronavirus test certificate from the place they are travelling from. The hotels in Kashmir are allowed to function with Covid-19 guidelines in place.
Tourists say they are elated to visit Kashmir during snowfall
A couple from Maharashtra told India Today TV that they visited Kashmir for their “honeymoon” as it “felt like the best place to visit” during coronavirus pandemic.
Rishab and Ami from Maharastra visited Gulmarg for their “honeymoon” and are excited to be in there during snowfall. They praised the hospitality of the locals during their visit to the valley.
“I am glad we came to Kashmir. I have travelled almost every corner of our country and also some neighbouring tourist destinations. But, I have never experienced this amazing hospitality from the locals in the valley. People of valley have been extremely generous and helpful throughout our stay,” Rishad said.
Another couple from Gujarat said they are elated to be in the valley during snowfall. “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,” Vikas, who visited Dal Lake with wife after his recent marriage, from Gujarat said.
Amit Dubey from New Delhi, who is in on a pre-wedding shoot with his fiance and other family members, said he was happy to be in the valley during snowfall and enjoyed his stay.
“I had this dream do the pre-wedding shoot in Kashmir and it has been wonderful. We were not disappointed. We are so happy to be in the valley when there was snowfall. We would come here again after the wedding,” Amit said.
Kashmir’s hospitality: People offered free accommodations to stranded tourists
Apart from the beauty of the place, what is striking the visitors is the hospitality of the people in the valley. This is the second time, Richa from Rajasthan has been to Kashmir. She said she brought her family along with her this time as she enjoys visiting Kashmir and appreciates the hospitality of the people in the valley.
“It is my second trip to Kashmir. I just love Kashmir. It is our 10th day today and we got stuck as flights were cancelled but we really aren’t complaining about that. People are so helpful and warm that you would want to come back again and again,” Richa said.
When the weather was bad last week, many tourists were stranded as their flights got cancelled. The local population and hoteliers in many areas offered free accommodations to those who were stranded.
“It was heartening to see how locals and hoteliers came forward to help those who were stranded. We had opened helplines for those who were stuck and we gave free accommodation to more than 100 people. Many hoteliers and houseboat owners also gave free accommodation,” Nisar Ahmad Wani, Director Tourism Kashmir, said.
The gestures didn’t go unnoticed as the visitors heaped praises towards the locals.
“I was told that I can stay as long as I want to in the houseboat since I was stuck due to flight cancellation. They didn’t charge me for the extra days. I heard so many other tourists being helped similarly. It was a wonderful gesture,” Ritu Kumar, who has been in the valley since January 1 and got stuck due to the heavy snowfall, said.
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