Rising mercury increases tourist flow to Kashmir

With improvement in the ground situation and rising mercury in the plains, tourism is back in full swing as people are arriving in droves in Kashmir.

Though the first quarter of this year saw low influx of arrivals due to law and order problem in the valley in the aftermath of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s hanging on February 9, tourism saw signs of recovery since the beginning of April when Asia’s largest tulip garden was thrown open to public.

Hundreds of cabs ferry tourists to north Kashmir’s Sonamarg and Gulmarg, and south Kashmir’s Pahalgam resorts every day, besides those carrying them to Manasbal Lake in Ganderbal district, Mughal Gardens in Srinagar and other places.

Rouf Tramboo, president of Travel Agents’ Association of Kashmir, termed the arrival of tourists as satisfactory. “Tourist arrivals have peaked from the last two weeks as it is quite hot in the plains,” he said.

However, there is no 100 per cent occupancy yet, and arrivals are 20-25 per cent less than last season, he added.

“Last year, 36 flights used to operate daily in the same period. The number of flights this year is 25-30,” Tramboo said. In the first five months in 2012, some five lakh tourists had visited Kashmir, but this year the number is around four lakh, he said.

Tramboo termed the arbitrary fare hike by airlines as another reason for less number of arrivals this year. “We are losing a substantial number of tourists due to steep hike in airline fares. We had asked the government to regulate the prices, but it has disappointed us,” he added.

In 2012, an all-time record of over 14 lakh tourists visited the valley.

In 2011, nearly 10 lakh tourists visited the valley, which followed the five-month unrest in the summer of 2010.

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