Record Tourist Influx

GULMARG, the famous picturesque ski resort, has become an unexpected winter wonderland in the midst of May. The site has experienced significant snowfall in recent days, transforming the landscape into a snowy paradise. With around 1 foot of snow still accumulated at Apharwat, Gulmarg has become a magnet for thousands of tourists from the mainland, seeking an escape from the scorching summer heat.

However, elsewhere also in the Valley, the last one and a half months have witnessed largely rainy weather pushing the temperature down. This has made tourists flock to Kashmir in large numbers. Around 2.5 lakh tourists visited the Valley in the first two months of this year and since then the numbers have only gone further grown. The recently concluded tulip festival attracted over 3.75 lakh tourists, while Gulmarg saw over 2 lakh tourists during the winter. Last year, J&K witnessed over 26.7 lakh tourist arrivals, the highest in the last three decades. These are impressive figures.

The growing tourism has gone a long way to shore up Kashmir economy and bring back employment lost to the successive security and Covid-19 lockdown. The boom in the sector is also having a positive spillover effect on other sectors. The sector forms 6.8 percent of Kashmir’s GDP and employs over two million people.

But at a time when the tourism season is at peak, the skyrocketing airfares to Kashmir are playing a spoilsport. Tourism stakeholders have accused the ailrlines of applying higher fares to people travelling to Srinagar. This is true, air-tickets between New Delhi and Srinagar now go for between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000. So, it is time that the government steps in and ensures that the airfare to Srinagar is kept economical to encourage more people to visit.

That said, the UT administration has done everything to bring more tourists to the region over the last two years. Once the successive Covid lockdowns were over, the administration did everything to facilitate tourism. And ever since, there has been a steady increase in the flow of visitors to the Valley. This has brought back jobs lost during the pandemic. Going forward, the situation looks optimistic on this front. With peace holding, tourism can once again emerge as the mainstay of the local economy. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has already talked about bringing two crore tourists to the union territory this year, which is a fairly large number of people. The waning pandemic and the return of normalcy have created conditions for unhindered tourism in the Valley. The future looks bright if things stay the same.

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