This festive season, tourists strike Kashmir off the list
Srinagar, Oct 6: Perching
on the deck of his Shikara, 34-year-old Rafiq Ahmad recalls last year’s autumn
season when the Dal Lake was bustling with tourists. Such was the rush that he
couldn’t find time to renovate his houseboat that required a whitewash. A year
later Ahmad is at wits end how to make-up for the losses he suffered during the
current festive season. “This was the season when we would earn some extra
bucks. Every year tourist flow would witness a steep rise in festive season.
The rush was such that houseboats would fall short of space to accommodate
tourists,” Ahmad said.
Since August, 2 when government issued advisory for the
tourists, houseboats, Shikaras and hotels across Kashmir are lying vacant.
Two months have passed, but there are no signs of tourism
revival. This is despite the fact that only few days are left for Diwali and
Dusshera holidays to start. During the festive season, high-end tourists from
Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal used to spend Pooja holidays in Kashmir.
General Manager Heaven Tour and Travels and a member of
Travel Agents Society of Kashmir (TASK), Farooq Ahmad Bhat told The Kashmir
Monitor that government advisory and communication clampdown are the main
reasons for zero arrivals this festive season.
“We would normally witness 70 per cent booking during Diwali
and Dusshera holidays. Currently, we can’t even access our emails to know the
mood of our clients,” he said.
Bashir Ahmad Karnai, a prominent hotelier said it is for the
first time in last one decade when hotels across Kashmir are without tourists.
“We never expected a situation like this at least in festive
season. The occupancy is almost reduced to zero. Even some hoteliers have
locked down their hotels,” he said.
Tourists, who were
planning to spend Pooja vacation in Kashmir said the current situation have
held them back. “We are eagerly waiting for the situation to improve. Most of
Bengalis have moved to other places including Darjeeling and Sikkim to spend
Pooja vacations,” said Arup Mukherjee, a Bengali backpacker in a telephonic