Dir tourism avers situation bad in Kashmir
SRINAGAR: Tourist arrivals in Kashmir have seen a drastic fall since the summer of 2016, and all the efforts of the government to lure them back have come to nothing.
Mushtaq Chhaya, a well-known hotelier who is President of the Kashmir Chapter of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), told Kashmir Reader that there has been no revival of tourism and hotels continue to remain empty.
“Tourism is in a really bad shape,” he said.
As per figures released by the state government, the Valley received more than 11 lakh tourists in the year 2013, but the numbers dropped to four lakh in 2016. Since the killing of Burhan Wani and the subsequent public uprising, the arrival of tourists has fallen significantly.
The government’s tourism department launched several initiatives to revive tourism but none of them has yielded any results. The department’s main strategy has been to dispel wrong notions of Kashmir in states of India. For this, the department has run advertisements on TV channels, organised road shows, hosted actors, singers and film festivals in Kashmir. Now it is planning to start a weekend leisure tour for tourists in the winter season.
A campaign titled ‘Valley Weekend’ has been started, inviting visitors to various sports and entertainment-related activities throughout the winter. The activities include marathons, fishing, cycling, skiing, snowshoe running, folk music, rock music, theatre, and poetry recitations.
“Goa, which has a huge inflow of tourists, engages in various activities to bring them in. Kashmir has to engage tourists more rigorously. Shows and other activities will have to be done, but there is a need for changing the bad perception of Kashmir and the government must start campaigns on TV channels as soon as possible,” Chhaya said.
Javaid Burza, another well-known hotelier who is President of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, said that “unknown forces” had done terrible damage to Kashmir.
“Rarely does any Indian travel agent sell Kashmir nowadays. Why do they do so, I do not know. The government besides working on channel programmes, must take governments of various states into confidence. Then and only then, things may change,” he said.
Burza, who owns three hotels at Pahalagam, Sonamarg, and Gulmarg, claimed that he had done huge publicity for Kashmir in his marketing programmes outside India, but despite that, nobody came.
“At the centre there is the BJP government. In many states there is a BJP government. In JK, too, there is a BJP government. I firmly believe that if governments work together and fight against this tide, things will change our way,” he said.
Director of the Tourism Department, Mehmood Shah, said that there has been constant negativity in Kashmir this year, “because of which nothing has changed”.
“Now and then there are encounters here and there. In last months, 21 militants were killed in 21 days. We had braid-chopping too, then violence due to elections. I think there is a need to engage people through electronic media, and we will be shortly doing so. We are also going to talk to various state governments in the coming days,” Shah said.