Tourist footfall picks up gradually in Kashmir

4000 visitors arrive after lifting of tourist advisory

File  PTI photo of tourists seen near the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar

Despite prevailing uncertainty, tourist footfall has picked up in Kashmir after the government lifted its advisory with nearly 4000 tourists visiting the Valley from October 9 till date.

"In the first 10 days of October nearly 1900 tourists arrived in Kashmir and it has more than doubled in the next 12 days. Though tourist arrivals have started picking gradually, it is still a long way to go, " SSP Tourism Enforcement Wing, Amarjeet Singh, told DH.

On August 3, two days ahead of the revocation of Article 370, the state administration led by Governor Satya Pal Malik in an advisory asked all the tourists and Amarnath pilgrims to vacate Kashmir immediately. The advisory created panic across the Valley as thousands of tourists and pilgrims were evacuated within days.

However, on October 7, the government lifted the advisory saying that tourists can visit Kashmir from October 10 onwards.

Ajay Basu a tourist from West Bengal, who arrived in Kashmir three days back, along with his friends said despite having made bookings for October five months back, he was reluctant to visit Kashmir initially.

"My family was insisting me to cancel the bookings as according to them going to Kashmir was dangerous. However, after arriving here, I didn't find anything wrong. Media is projecting only negative things about Kashmir while the reality is that it is a paradise on earth and everyone should come here," he said.

Basu's views were echoed by his friend Dilip, who besides having a shikara (boat) ride in Dal Lake also visited ski-resort Gulmarg, where he had a cable car joyride - popularly known as Gondola - at an altitude of 13,052 ft upto Kongdoori.

"The breathtaking beauty of Gulmarg has mesmerizes all of us and we are happy that we didn't cancel our bookings. It is a lifetime opportunity which no one should miss," he said.

Much to the delight of tourists, authorities restarted the Gondola last week. An official of the project said 40 to 50 visitors take the joyride every day.

"Prior to August 5, tourists would wait anxiously in long queues for their turn to enjoy the ride over breathtaking slopes of Gulmarg. On an average 1000 visitors would take the ride daily then," he said and added for more than two months the cable car remained shut as no tourist visited the resort during that period.

While the lifting of tourist advisory and restoration of post-paid mobile phones has helped in attracting some tourists to Kashmir, people associated with the trade say unless internet services are not restored not many visitors will come here.

"In today's time, most of the bookings are made online. How can tourists come here when online bookings are not available," asked Syed Athar, a tour operator.

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