SRINAGAR: Agitation in favour and against Amarnath land transfer notwithstanding, tourist arrivals in Kashmir valley registered 97 per cent increase this season.

Over five lakh domestic tourists visited Kashmir valley this year up to July 25, which is 97 percent higher than corresponding figures of last year, director tourism, Farooq Ahmed Shah said.

He attributed the increase in number of visitors to the valley to revival of the tourist industry in the state.

“The state witnessed revival in tourism sector after the sanction of loans in favour of the houseboat owners in 1998 and 2004 under state package and prime minister’s employment.

When asked about decline in the number of house boats, Shah said the number of registered houseboats in Srinagar is around 1200 and a ban was imposed on fresh registration and construction of houseboats in late 1980s.

Shah said the conservation of Dal and Nageen lakes warrants that the number of house boats be feasible.

To meet the demand for construction of dry docks for repairs, the Department of Tourism has already released Rs 20 lakh to the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA), he said.

Shah said the issue of rehabilitation of families living in kitchen boats and wooden sheds likely to be affected by the realignment programme is being addressed by LAWDA.

Meanwhile, chief wildlife warden A K Srivastav said a comprehensive action plan has been formulated for promotion of eco-tourism in the state keeping in view its tremendous potential here.

The Wildlife Department in collaboration with Karnataka Tourism Department will impart training and capacity building to staff, tour operators, wildlife guides, bird watchers and the locals involved in management, he said.