Tourists Are Back

WITH the third wave abating across India,  tourist arrivals in Kashmir have accelerated in recent weeks. According to the official estimate, the arrivals  are set to reach a 10-year high this year. Since January alone, more than 340,000 tourists have come.  In March, around 1.8 lakh tourists arrived which is an unprecedented number over the last so many years. One of the biggest draws for the tourists  is the Tulip Garden, Asia’s largest, and also the resorts like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Dal lake. Most of the tourists visited Gulmarg where the hotels remain booked ever since January. Similarly, the tourist spots like Pahalgam are seeing the rush. But it is Gulmarg which is the go to place. This is because Gulmarg has received most of the publicity. Prospects for tourism are getting better by the day.

But the excessive focus on fewer resorts are drawing tourists away from other equally scenic places, some of them like Aharbal, Yusmarg, Tosamaidan, Gurez, historic old city in Srinagar have only recently found a prominent place on the tourist map of Kashmir. These places need development of tourist infrastructure and also a wider publicity for people to visit. The Tourism department has said that an advertising campaign across major Indian cities and the opening of new destinations were attracting more tourists.

Tourism, one of the mainstays of the Kashmir economy, is one of the sectors that has been hit the hardest. There is a large section of people who have largely been without employment over the last two and a half years. Their savings have already been depleted. For example, the transporters: the drivers and conductors  were among the worst-hit. This includes also the people associated with tourism. In 2021, many cases of suicides and suicide attempts took place as a result. The major cause of suicide attempts was financial distress in the families caused by the turmoil of the preceding two years and also by the extended successive lockdowns, two of them the result of the  Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s hoping that with the abating of the pandemic, the economic situation would return to normal, both in the country as well as in Kashmir. This alone will prevent further misery.

Tourism sector forms 6.8 percent of Kashmir's GDP and employs 2 million people. The sector has the potential to shore up our beleaguered economy. Here’s hoping that things improve from hereon. The waning pandemic wave is once again creating conditions for unhindered tourism in the Valley. This is also the hope of the people associated with the tourist sector.   They hope there is no fourth  Covid wave so that the tourists continue pouring into Kashmir and help resuscitate the economy and generate jobs.

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