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Paradise regained: After record tourist arrivals last month, Kashmir is fully sold out in January too

FILE PHOTO

Srinagar:  New Year has brought good omen for tourism in Kashmir with arrivals breaking the record in December.

Last month 13, 237 tourists visited the valley mostly to celebrate Christmas and New Year.  Of whom as many as 6033 tourists stayed at Gulmarg. In fact, December 2020 constituted nearly 32 percent of total arrivals last year.

 

Travel agents said January too is booked, while the queries for February and March too have surged.

“We are witnessing good tourism inflow this time around. The snowfall and ongoing rush have sent a good message outside. Those whose tickets got canceled due to the bad weather rescheduled their trip. So for upcoming months, we expect a good number of tourists,” said Showkat Ahmad Khankashi, Secretary, General Travel Agents Association of Kashmir.

Figures reveal that 2020 has been the worst ever year for tourism as only 41267 tourists including 3897 foreigners visited the valley. In 2019, 830758 tourists including 55814 foreigners had visited the valley, mostly before August 2 when authorities canceled the Amarnath yatra and asked tourists to return citing militant threats.

 Last year, tourism had started picking up in January but after authorities imposed Covid lockdown, the arrivals came to naught. Around 4863 visitors including 1071 foreigners had visited the valley in January last year.

February recorded 8182 arrivals including 1729 foreigners.  Covid -19 hit the valley in March and only 4643 tourists including 836 foreigners visited the valley. The same month the Centre imposed a lockdown banning tourism and transport.

In April, May, and June, not a single tourist visited the valley given the COVID lockdown. In July when the government eased restrictions, 186 tourists including 11 foreigners visited the valley.

August, September, and October recorded 284, 848 and 2697 tourist arrivals including 33, 34, and 38 foreigners respectively.

Tourism showed signs of revival in November when 6327 tourists including 56 foreigners visited the valley.

An official said the tourism department has lined up multiple programmes to lure tourists to Kashmir this summer.

“We have scores of winter programmes lined up. Further, the department will actively participate in the promotional programmes outside Jammu and Kashmir to lure the tourists to Kashmir,” he said.