SRINAGAR – Tourists seem undeterred by the prevalent chill in Kashmir, as they are thronging the Valley in large numbers during the off-season. An unprecedented rush in tourist arrivals was witnessed in the Valley in September and October, which are usually considered off-season for tourism in Kashmir, Deputy Director of Tourism (Publicity) Azmat Ali was quoted saying by PTI.
“As many as 64,000 tourists visited Kashmir in the month of September and 69,000 in October,” Ali said. And it is not just domestic tourists, but foreigners as well who are visiting the Valley though in lesser, but significant numbers. Ali put the number of foreign tourists visiting the Valley in September at 2,950 and in October at 2,864. “The number of foreign tourists is less, but we expect the number to pick up in the coming months as, during winter season, more and more foreigners visit the Valley for adventure tourism,” he said.
On an average, he said, 2,100 tourists were visiting Kashmir daily. He said this year, around 11,65,000 tourists visited the Valley, 31,461 of them being foreigners. Popular destinations like Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg are attracting tourists in large numbers even during the lean season, which has surprised many. “It is unusual to see such a huge rush of tourists in this season,” Mohammad Abdullah, a houseboat owner said, adding “it is very good for the business community and the state’s economy.”
The tourists, besides being enchanted by the beauty of Kashmir, are also overwhelmed by people’s hospitality. “Kashmir is the best place to spend your hard earned holidays. Not only is the place beautiful, but people here are very nice and helpful,” Yogeshwar Mehra, a tourist from Haryana told PTI. “We (family) have enjoyed our stay here and can’t get enough of this place,” Mehra’s wife Jyoti said. Asked if militancy-related violence like the shooting in a hotel here last month had any effect on their plans, Mehra said stray incidents like that can occur anywhere. “The point is that incidents like that can happen anywhere.
But what is important is that we have to defeat those forces who want to disturb peace,” he said. “Our friends and relatives had apprehensions about this visit, but we made them understand that it was worth taking the risk,” Jyoti said. She had a word for those who wish to visit but were a touch apprehensive: “There is no fear here. If you want to visit Kashmir, please do not think again, just pack your bags and come and I assure you that you will never regret.”
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