Boom Year for Kashmir Tourism
This is a boom year for tourism in the northern Indian state of Kashmir. Often called “Paradise on earth”, this state has been the victim of much turmoil, including terrorism and, lately, Covid-19 pandemic. Once attracting droves of tourists, the state only saw a trickle over the past couple of decades. This has adversely affected not just the tourism industry but also local people dependent on tourist arrival. Shops selling local artefacts and handicraft items, including the famous Kashmir carpets and embroidered woolen shawls, phirans and coats. Papier mache articles and carved wooden pieces are some of the other locally made articles.
According to local sources, this year saw the arrival of a record 16.2 million tourists, the most numerous ever in its 75 years’ existence post independence. This has been attributed to peace returning to the valley and concerted efforts by the state government to promote tourism.
But the downturn is the soaring rates of hotels and houseboat rooms. What were once available for a few thousand rupees are now priced at Rs 40,000 and above. With tourist arrivals picking up, hotel and houseboat owners are keen to cash in on them. They are also seeking to make up for losses over the past years.
Another downturn is that there is virtually only a trickle of foreign tourists, mainly on account of stern advisories issues in their home countries. Years of terror activities, leading to kidnappings, killings and targeting of tourists, both domestic and foreign, have kept tourists away. In the absence of a complete guarantee of safe and secure environment for tourists, many countries have issued advisories to their citizens travelling to India to keep away from this paradise.
This year has also been a boom season for Ladakh with more than a million tourists. In contrast to the Kashmir side, this region has remained open for foreign tourists. This year too, a lot of foreigners are visiting Ladakh as the “moonland” is a big draw with them. Moreover, no advisories have been issued for visitors to this region, which offers a lot in terms of stunning landscapes, adventure trails, nature and wildlife sightings and monasteries.