Srinagar: COVID resurgence has dealt a major blow to the fledgling tourism sector with 90 percent visitors canceling their bookings for the summer season.
Travel agents claim that more than 90 percent of the bookings have been canceled in the first two weeks of April due to the surge in COVID -19 across the country.
“All the travel agents are witnessing booking cancellation. Though the cases are comparatively fewer here, the lockdown imposed by the government in Maharashtra and Gujarat has prompted visitors to change their mind,” said president Travel Agents Association of Kashmir Farooq Kuthoo.
He said the inquiries for fresh bookings too have dipped. “Most of the tourists who visited the valley in the last few months were from Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Gujarat. Since these states are affected by COVID, the flow of tourists to Kashmir declined abruptly. Right now. travel agents are getting calls for a refund by the tourists,” he added.
After more than two years, tourism had started picking up in Kashmir after December last year. Almost all hotels in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Srinagar were sold out till April. Bookings also witnessed a surge after the tulip garden was thrown open.
President, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Owners Federation (KHROF), Abdul Wahid Malik said the occupancy in hotels has dropped by more than 70 percent in Kashmir during the last two weeks.
“All of my 90 rooms were booked for the current month. But due to the sudden cancellation now 88 are lying vacant. The situation is very bad in India given the spike in COVID-19 cases. Under these circumstances, no one wants to take a risk to travel,” he said.
He said only those tourists are visiting right now who are in transit. “Right now very few tourists visit Kashmir. If the situation doesn’t improve, Kashmir tourism will face another devastating year,” he said.
Malik said the hoteliers are fully refunding the money to the tourists who have canceled their bookings in view of the COVID-19 spike.
Meanwhile, the tourism department is conducting its promotional programmes as usual. The administration is also screening travelers at Srinagar airport and Lakhanpur toll plaza.