Srinagar: Omicron-driven third Covid wave has hit the tourism sector hard with arrivals dropping by 58 percent in January.
Tourism stakeholders are staring at huge losses as there has been mass cancellation of bookings in the last one month.
“From August till December, the tourism sector was showing good signs of recovery. We were able to recover some losses as domestic arrivals had started picking up. Now again a dry season has begun,” said Umar Ahmad, a travel agent from Srinagar.
Umar’s claims are substantiated by the figures compiled by the Department of Tourism Kashmir. The arrivals have dipped by 58 percent in January compared to December.
Data by the tourism department reveal that 61468 tourists arrived in the valley in January. It is 58 percent less than December when 143057 tourists arrived in the valley. On average, nearly 5000 tourists were arriving a day in December.
A cursory look at the data reveals that on average 2000 tourists arrived a day in January. There have been many days in January when the daily arrivals were 1000 or less.
For instance, on January 8, the valley as per the figures didn’t receive any tourists, while on January 5, 13, 18, and 23, the number of arrivals was 804, 1065, 1015, and 685 respectively.
In January, J&K reported 146 deaths and 94,135 positive cases. Kashmir was the most affected region with 62,897 positive cases and 60 deaths.
Despite the second Covid wave, a record number of tourists visited Kashmir last year.
As per the figures, 665814 tourists visited Kashmir in 2021 compared to the 41267 arrivals in 2020.
Hoteliers claimed that the drop in arrivals continues despite assurance and complete adherence to COVID-19 SOPs.
“We have all arrangements in place to ensure a safe stay for tourists. Due to the COVID-19, a major proportion of backpackers are probably not willing to take a risk to travel. We hope the situation to improve in the coming month,” said Waheed Ahmad Malik former president of Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurant Association (KHARA)
An official from the tourism department said it is a good sign that tourists are arriving despite the pandemic.
“It is true that to some extent the arrivals have dipped. But compared to the previous waves, we receive guests this season too. All the tourism places have been kept open for tourists even on weekends. We are simultaneously promoting tourism at different levels,” he said.