After a record number of tourist arrivals in 2022, Kashmir is readying for bumper tourist season this year with famous tourist resorts like Gulmarg already sold out till January end. As Kashmir is teeming with tourists this season, hotel owners have already announced special packages for winter months. On New Year’s eve, all the tourist places in Kashmir were jam-packed despite the bone-chilling cold.
The Tourism department hosted mega events on all top tourist destinations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg to keep the festive atmosphere alive for tourists and locals during the New Year celebrations.
This season for the first time, all hotels and restaurants across the valley remained open making a merry place for tourists to enjoy snowfalls around the winter season. Till now, only the ski-resort Gulmarg used to remain open for tourists during witers.
“Tourists used to visit Pahalgam at the most for six to eight months and during winter we had to shut down our business. But thanks to the efforts of the incumbent government, now we have business during all seasons,” Athar, a restaurant owner from south Kashmir’s Pahalgam hill station told DH. “Former political rulers used to hide behind the conflict whenever they were reminded about Kashmir’s tourism industry being in tatters.
But the present administration led by Lieutenant Governor is determined to make Kashmir the Switzerland of Asia,” he added. After hitting an all-time low in August 2019, when the Center abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and subsequent Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, the tourism industry is not only back on track, but is now thriving. “We were afraid of investing in upgrading infrastructure as strikes, stone pelting and violence used to be the order of the day. Investing in tourism was a risky affair, but now we know such issues are things of the past and Kashmir is heading into a new era of development,” said Lateef Lone, a hotel owner in Lal Chowk.
During the past three years, the government has put in relentless efforts to restore the pristine glory of Kashmir by reviving whatever the Valley had lost after 1990 when militancy broke out in J&K. Till 1989, people from across the country and the world used to visit Kashmir in large numbers but the arrival of gun-toting militants in 1990 dealt a severe blow to the tourism industry in the Himalayan region. The idea to turn tourism into a 12-month activity has turned Kashmir into one of the most vibrant and happening places in the country.