Unrest mars tourism season in Kashmir


Street protests, shutdowns and curfew in the Valley besides flash-floods in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir marred the tourism season in the state this year.

The tourism season in Kashmir this year began on a positive note with more than five lakh tourists visiting the northern-most area of the country in the first five months and authorities were hoping to break the 23-year-old record of nearly one million arrivals.

However, these hopes were dashed with the beginning of the five-month unrest in the Valley in June and flash floods triggered by cloudburst in Ladakh region.

“Before the stone pelting started (in June), more than five lakh tourist had visited Kashmir which was more than the entire number that visited last year,” said Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora.

The Minister said the tourism season in Ladakh, a prime destination for foreign tourists visiting the state, was hit by the flash-floods, which left a trail of devastation this August.

“The flood (in Ladkah) caused a problem,” Jora said.

As Kashmir Valley slowly limps back towards normalcy, after remaining locked down for most of the summer this year, tourists are also flocking to the region known for its hospitality and natural beauty.

“Tourists are coming but the number is not much,” Jora said.

The tourism department officials say the arrival of domestic and foreign tourists to Kashmir Valley this month is better than the previous five months.

“November, despite being a lean month in terms of tourist arrivals, has been better than October. Last 10-12 days have been good and if the situation continues to improve, we can expect the numbers to increase,” a senior official of the department said.

Tourism officials are now counting on the snowfall, and the possibilities it throws up for winter sports in Kashmir, to attract the tourists back to the Valley.

The snowfall in Kashmir begins in late November in the upper reaches of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonmarg, which are the prime winter tourist destinations.

Officials said most of the domestic tourists arriving here are from Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal and the foreign tourists are mostly coming from southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Thailand.