Srinagar: Uncertainty post-abrogation of Article 370 has dealt a major blow to fledgling tourism sector with tourist footfall to the valley dropping by an astounding 87 percent since August 5.
Figures presented in the Lok Sabha reveal that only 36,105 tourists visited Kashmir since August compared to 2,67,955 for the corresponding period last year.
In 2017, as many as 5,45,601 tourists had visited Kashmir from August to November. Even at the height of separatist-sponsored unrest in 2016, around 1,26,464 tourists had visited the valley in four months from August.
Similarly, 2,68,530 tourists visited Kashmir from August to November 2015; while in 2014, it was 1,54,777 in those four months.
This year September saw the lowest arrivals of 4,562 tourists followed by October at 9,327. With situation showing considerable improvement, tourist arrivals recorded quantum jump in November with 12,086 visitors landing in Kashmir. In August, tourist arrivals dropped to 10,130 because of the government advisory and abrogation of Article 370.
Kashmir on August 2 became no-zone for tourists when government issued an advisory for tourists citing militant threat to Amarnath Yatra. The government lifted the advisory on October 10.
More than one lakh people, mostly in tourism sector, have lost jobs due to the prevailing situation.
“We have suffered more than Rs 15, 000 crore loss. The crisis is still continuing”, said Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Prior to the August 2 advisory, more than 5.21 lakh tourists and 3.40 lakh pilgrims had visited Kashmir. In fact, Kashmir has been witnessing persistent drop in tourist footfall for the last three years. Figures reveal that 12, 745, 96 tourists visited the valley in 2016, which dropped to 11, 960, 67 in 2017. Last year, 7, 85,173 tourists visited the valley.
Jammu and Kashmir has now launched a publicity blitzkrieg to counter the negative perception about the valley.
“We are holding road shows in different parts of country and abroad. We are going for massive ad campaign. We have already started the campaign in Delhi and Mumbai airports. We are also focusing on in-flight magazines. We have already started publicity campaign through train wraps”, said Nisar Ahmad Wani, Director, Tourism Department, Kashmir.
Tourism players, however, are not enthused about government’s fresh initiative to woo visitors back to the valley.
“Internet is a prerequisite for any promotional campaign. The Tourism Department may organize any programme but it is the people associated with trade who can do the bookings. When internet is not available, how can we do bookings for the event? We have been urging government to restore internet so that we can sell tourism packages”, said Adil Khan, Vice-President, Kashmir Hotel and Restaurants Association (KHARA).