J&K administration is looking forward to a renewed inflow of tourists with the onset of the winter and the ebbing of the virulent second Covid-19 wave, And to this end, the administration has taken steps to protect the Valley as a safe destination. This has involved a two-pronged strategy: one, vaccination of the people associated with the tourism. Second, strict enforcement of the SOPs to ensure the safety of the tourists during their stay in the Valley. The administration has already carried out vaccination drives at tourist destinations.
This has had the desired effect. In recent weeks, tourists have flocked in significant numbers to scenic resorts like Gulmarg. The administration is now planning to open some more destinations like Sonamarg and Dodapathri. According to media reports, there are around 3,000-4,000 arrivals everyday. The tourism department has also held roadshows at major cities including Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Lucknow. According to the figures, while less than one lakh tourists visited the Valley during April-July, more than 2.8 lakh have thronged in just the last three months.
Tourism in the Valley has been battered by the turmoil and the pandemic of the last two years – except, of course, the last winter when the tourists had started arriving in increasing numbers by November last, helped largely by the ban on international travel due to the pandemic. Another factor that worked in favour of Kashmir tourism is snow, a novelty for most Indians. The union tourism minister Prahlad Singh Patel had then said in a statement in Rajya Sabha that the tourist footfall in the union territory this year had broken the record of the last 16 years.
But then the arrivals again petered out as the second wave reared its head around May and soon overwhelmed the country and J&K. The nascent recovery of the sector was thus cut in its bud. This has once again resulted in the loss of livelihoods. Hardest was the low wage workers like ponywallas, tourist guides, cab drivers, hotel staff, boatmen etc.
Now, the winter and the snow at tourist resorts have generated fresh hope. Tourism has once again picked up helped in part by the continuing ban on international travel. Snowfalls that would soon become the order of the day will give further fillip to the arrivals. One benefit of a snow-bound winter has been that there is a sudden bump in the arrival of tourists. But the economy already reeling from the successive lockdown of the past one and a half years has been dealt too severe a blow to recover anytime soon.
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