Srinagar: Indo-China standoff coupled with COVID 19 has sounded a death knell to Ladakh tourism with losses mounting to Rs 400 crore.
The tourism season in Ladakh starts in May and ends in September. Nearly 40 percent of tourists visiting Ladakh are foreigners.
This year, tourist operators suffered a double whammy of COVID and border tension between India and China on the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.
Tourism stakeholders claim that they have suffered losses worth Rs 400 crore this year so far.
Last year as many as 2, 40,000 tourists visited Ladakh. Forty percent of them were foreigners. Despite the uncertainty in Kashmir post abrogation of article 370, Ladakh tourism thrived in 2019.
President All Ladakh Tour Operators Association (ALTOA) Tsetan Angchuk told The Kashmir Monitor that heightening border tension could discourage foreigners to visit Ladakh after the lockdown is eased.
“Ladakh is a place where 70 percent of people are dependent on tourism directly or indirectly. While in other places, tour agents are bracing up for bookings, Ladakh might not be able to come to the grips given the border tensions,” he said.
Angchuk feared that the prevailing border conditions in times of COVID 19 might attract foreign advisories if the issue is not solved diplomatically.
“During the 1999 Kargil war, tourism didn’t suffer for a long. However, such situations attract advisories from European countries. We want the issue to be resolved diplomatically so that people, as well as the economy, do not suffer,” he said.
President ALTOA said they would hold a meeting with the UT administration to discuss the measures for revival of the tourism sector.
“We will hold a webinar and discuss the situation. We will deliberate the measures that can help the revival of tourism in Ladakh,” he said.
There are 4000 cab owners whose livelihood is directly proportional to tourist arrivals.
“We hope that the government provides some monetary relief to the taxi owners who have borrowed money from banks to run their business,” said Chopsel Kasdar, General Secretary Taxi Cooperative Society Leh.
Hoteliers claim that the industry has witnessed Rs 400 crore losses due to pandemic and border tension.
“Against occupancy of 100 percent during the season last year, we haven’t received a single tourist this year so far. Earlier, COVID 19 affected our business. And now India –China faceoff is making things worse. Currently, tourist attractions including Pangong are out of bounds for the people” said Tsewang Yangor, President Hotel, and Guest House Association.