SRINAGAR: The “Ramazan ceasefire” is, at least, paying dividends in the business of tourism, which was struggling for nearly two years in Kashmir Valley.
“The last 20 days (since the ceasefire was announced) has created an atmosphere where tourists have stopped asking questions about the situation in the Valley. This behavioural change has been accompanied by an increase in the arrival of tourists,” said a relieved Bashir Karnai, Vice Chairman of Tourist Trade Interest Guild.
Karnai, twice winner of an all-India award for tourism agents for bringing highest foreign exchange earning in tourism, said that in the past 20 days he has signed three deals with tourist delegations in Malaysia.
“One of them will arrive in September, the second in October, and the third in November. All of this was possible because of the ceasefire. The government should continue it,” he said.
The dry spell in Kashmir tourism has been going on since September 2014, when floods hit the valley. There was a slight upward trend in 2015, but it went tumbling down in the 2016 uprising. Between July 2016 and September 2017, according to tourism players, the valley has witnessed the lowest arrival of tourists in the past three decades. The drop, both government and business players say, is caused by the “wrong” portrayal of Kashmir by a section of Indian news media. The valley has received less than four lakh tourists this year.
Wahid Malik, president of Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF), said the ceasefire added 20 percent to the occupancy of tourists in hotels.
“In my opinion, the ceasefire should continue and talks with the stakeholders should also begin,” Malik said.
Chairman of Kashmir Houseboat Owners Association, Ghulam Rasool, told Kashmir Reader that the ceasefire has begun to have an impact on tourist arrivals. “Its impact will last only when the ceasefire is extended, and talks held to bring peace in the Valley,” he said.
Rasool said that the Kashmiri houseboats, unique because of their intricate wood-carved walls and ceilings, still attract a sizeable number of the Valley’s high-end tourists. Last year, however, they faced a major fall in tourist occupancy, he said.