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Tourist infrastructure

This spring, Kashmir expects a bumper tourism season with several hotels fully occupied until April end. The COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions on international air travel has made Kashmir a sought-after destination for the huge domestic tourist market in India. This coupled with the efforts put in by the local and central government in wooing tourists to return to Kashmir have, so far, proven beneficial for the industry as Gulmarg and other tourist destinations in the valley have seen an unprecedented inflow of tourists so far this year. As per official, during the first two and a half months of this year, as many as 58,000 tourists have visited Kashmir easily surpassing the figure recorded during the same time in 2020. In fact, the inflow of tourists started increased in December last year when over 13,000 of them including 89 foreigners visited the valley to celebrate Christmas and New Year. The following month in January 2021, around 19102 tourists including 60 foreigners visited Kashmir. Same month last year, only 4863 tourists had visited Kashmir. February saw a surge with the footfall reaching 26064 including 154 foreigners. A total of 8182 tourists had visited the valley in February last year. The last two years have been a loss-making period for the valley tourism sector given two back-to-back lockdowns. Post unlock, domestic leisure travel has witnessed 30 percent growth for Quarter 1 (January-March) across the country. Kashmir has been at the top of tourists’ bucket list apart from Shimla, Rajasthan, Munnar, Coorg, Kannur and Andaman. Now that the valley is excited and looking forward to welcoming more and more tourists, the issue it faces is of the lesser bed capacity. At present Kashmir has a capacity of 45,000 beds including all categories of hotels, boathouses, and guest homes. In Gulmarg, if reports are to be believed, tourists recently faced a tough time finding a room as all the hotels and guest houses are fully booked. If the central government and the administration in Kashmir is really serious about reviving tourism to the same glory it enjoyed in the past, they have to ensure that Kashmir has enough tourist infrastructure to welcome and accommodate the guests. Kashmir has huge potential to be the best tourist destination in India and attract hundreds of thousands of tourists from within and outside India. The valley is gifted with scenic locations and tourist spots that can and do attract thousands of tourists for all seasons during a year. As such development of the tourist infrastructure that caters both mid and high-end clientele should be one of the prime focuses of the tourism department and all the stakeholders of the sector. The government should promote development of such infrastructure and make all official processes easier in this regard. The valley needs to be ready to welcome our guests and ensure they do not face any inconvenience when they arrive here. These tourists are the ambassadors whose experience in Kashmir, whether good or bad, will matter a lot in attracting more and more tourists to the valley. One hopes that the authorities take all required steps to revive the sector if it needs to change things for the positive.