After devastating floods, J&K tries to woo tourists

After devastating floods, J&K tries to woo tourists

After devastating floods, J&K tries to woo tourists

Jammu and Kashmir’s economy mostly thrives on tourism as it is one of the biggest revenue earners for the state.

People dependent on tourism for their livelihood were all gearing up to welcome visitors, like in the last couple of years with militancy on the decline. But they were in for a rude shock when the worst-ever floods devastated many parts of the state with Srinagar bearing the brunt of the natural calamity in early September.
But everything seems to have not been lost. The tourism industry is devising ways to attract tourists. To woo tourists to the “Paradise on earth” the state tourism department, in collaboration with local stakeholders, has been organising cultural and adventure programmes at different tourist spots in the Valley. On New Year’s eve, the department celebrated the three-day “Jashan-e-Chillai Kalan” (a 40-day harshest period of winter in Kashmir starting December 21) to give flip to winter tourism.

According to officials, more than 2,000 tourists thronged famed ski resort of Gulmarg on December 31, where music, live DJ show, cultural programmes, digital firecracker show, laser show, cycling events were planned for the New Year revelries.

“Our aim of celebrating New Year was to boost tourism in Kashmir as we want that lean season too is celebrated in Kashmir. Every season is a good time to visit Kashmir and we welcomed New Year for the better tourist growth next year,” Tourism Director Talat Parvez said. This was the first major tourism-related activity after the devastating floods wreaked havoc on Kashmir last year. Tourism sector had suffered huge losses as most hotels in Srinagar suffered extensive damage. Subsequently, a majority of the bookings by tourists to Kashmir were cancelled which hit the tourism players hard.

The department also plans to host snow festival in Gulmarg in the last week of January followed by competitive events in February. “We are also planning to hold a second season of heli-skiing event in March 2015,” Parvez said. Last winter, the Valley received around two lakh tourists, including foreigners. “This winter we expect the inflow to cross the last year’s two lakh mark,” he hoped.

An official told Deccan Herald that in the current winter season, the tourism department was trying to woo more foreign tourists to Kashmir, especially to Gulmarg and Pahalgam for adventure sports. “Aru in Pahalgam would be given special focus to attract snow skiing lovers during Winter Tourism Festival in February. Gulmarg will be an attraction for the high-end winter tourism related activities.

Aru resort will get special focus to be a favourite winter destination for both domestic and foreign tourists. Courses on snow-related activities, including snow skiing and snowboarding, will be offered,” he said.The department plans to extend promotional offers during winter. “If we host tourists nicely during this season, the upcoming season will be a merry for us. To ensure the comfort of the tourists, we are taking required steps. While some hotels were affected, many did not suffer any damage. So, tourists can assure themselves with safe and comfortable accommodation. Tourists will not only be provided with a comfortable accommodation but also the facilities will get cheaper to suit every budget,” he added.

However, tourism players in Kashmir differ with the government initiatives of wooing tourists. “We need publicity outside the state not in Kashmir,” Chairman JK Hoteliers Club, Mushtaq Chaya, said. “Instead of wasting the public money on events in Kashmir, the department would have done well to organise it at some places outside the state from where tourists come to Kashmir.”
But notwithstanding the difference of opinion between the two parties, tourists visiting Kashmir these days are a happy lot. Mriganka, an entrepreneur from New Delhi who travelled to Kashmir on New Year’s day, said she was happy that she didn’t cancel her bookings when floods hit the state last September. “I had planned to visit Kashmir in winter and made the bookings n August last year. However, after the devastating floods my family and friends told me to cancel the visit. But, I decided against and travelled to Kashmir and it has been a wonderful experience,” she told Deccan Herald.

“I was welcomed with a lot of warmth by locals who had just suffered from the devastating floods. The hoteliers ensured clean properties and surroundings for the tourists. I am happy with my decision of not cancelling her trip to Kashmir,” she said.
However, Mriganka was a little bit

disappointed for not seeing snowfall as it has been delayed this year. The Kashmir Valley is witnessing intense cold wave with sub-zero temperatures. However, the Valley is yet to witness snowfall this season.
A tourist from Gujarat, who visited the Valley in the New Year, said Kashmir is correctly called the “Paradise on earth”. His message is, “If you are travelling this holiday season let Kashmir be the destination of your choice.”

An industry watcher said the tourism sector suffered a major jolt with the floods bringing the tourist influx almost to zero.

“The arrival was also hit because of the end of two years leave travel concession (LTC) period for the central employees. Now the Union Government has again extended the LTC for Kashmir for two more years which will help in increasing the domestic tourist inflow to valley,” he said. Zulfikar Majid in Srinagar