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Kashmir Tourism


Kashmir is abuzz with tourists, flight rates at all time high

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May 14, 2008

SRINAGAR: Kashmir valley is abuzz these days with tourist arrivals, air tickets to the valley are at an all time high and hotel industry is jostling to accommodate bookings, a phenomenon witnessed after a gap of nearly two decades.

The hectic tourism schedule for this 'Paradise on Earth' can be gauged from the fact that prices of even low cost carriers are touching skies.

'Go Air' flight from Delhi to Srinagar is costing close to whopping Rs 11,000, subject to cancellation. The scene in 'Air Deccan' is no better as no tickets are available for next three days. The tickets for May 18 flight are available at Rs 7,000.

Meanwhile, the heavy rush during the school-holiday season has also highlighted the lack of space in the state in the face of high demand. With tourists arriving everyday, hotels in Srinagar and other resorts like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are facing room crunch.

"We do not have enough rooms to accommodate every body. My three houseboats are fully booked till August at the moment," Abdul Salam, a houseboat owner in the Dal lake said.

Salam is also facing a peculiar situation this summer wherein he had to reject requests of extended stays by tourists, something he has not done in the last couple of years.

Meanwhile, the taxi operators in Jammu and Srinagar are making the proverbial hay while the sun shines after witnessing a 'lean winter'.

"We are having good business these days. May be it is time for us to make up for the losses we suffered during the winter when we had ply the Srinagar-Jammu route just to cover the costs," Rafiq Ahmad Mir, a taxi operator said.

An enterprising group of youth have started a fresh initiative to cash-in on the spurt in tourism. They take local handicrafts in shikaras to sell them to people enjoying rides in the lake, thus saving tourists precious time.

Although the state government wants to downplay the huge influx of tourists into the valley, sources said at least 5,000 tourists arrive here daily.

The government is seeking to keep a low profile over the buzz in the tourism industry after militants over the past couple of years have targetted tourists, since their arrival was being projected as a sign of return of normalcy in the valley.

Director Tourism Farooq Ahmad Shah is not surprised over the sudden influx of the tourists.

"We have had good number of tourists arriving in the past few years as well, but some unfortunate events had cast a shadow over the future," he said

Meanwhile, the heavy rush of vehicles on the Srinagar-Jammu National highway has brought a flipside to the fore as well with the number of accidents going up this summer.

"I usually do not travel by road but the exorbitant cost of ticket forced me to undertake this journey," Sajad Hassan Kaloo, who narrowly escaped in a road accident at Qazigund on Monday night, said.

One person died on the spot while two persons including Kaloo suffered grievous injuries in the accident.

economictimes.indiatimes.com

Kashmir is abuzz with tourists, flight rates at all time high
A street in Achhabal, Kashmir / lib.berkeley.edu



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