October this year marked the deadliest month in the region, with 44 killings including 19 militants, 13 civilians and 12 armed forces personnel.
SRINAGAR — The surge in violence in Kashmir has taken a hit on the tourism industry in the region with tourists from various parts of mainland India and abroad cancelling their trips to the conflict-ridden region.
October marked the deadliest month for the region this year with 44 killings, which included 19 militants, 13 civilians and 12 armed forces personnel. The violence increased on multiple fronts. At least six grenade attacks, recovery of four IEDs, hurling of two petrol bombs and a string of targeted attacks against 11 civilians including five non-local labourers and three members of the minority communities added to the deteriorating situation in the valley.
Ghulam Rasool Siah, president of Houseboat Owners Association said that the tourism industry witnessed a massive decline in footfall after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and the covid-19 restrictions. Although in the last half of 2020, the industry had witnessed a slight improvement in footfall, the fresh spike in violence has again impacted the tourism business. “Many people who had booked their tours to Kashmir in winter, cancelled at the last moment and more cancellations are expected.”
Approximately five lakh people are believed to be employed in the tourism business in Kashmir including hotel staff, houseboat employees, artisans, transporters and pony service providers.
Interestingly, the impact of covid-19 on Jammu and Kashmir’s tourism industry was relatively less crippling than in several other parts of India. With many tourist hotspots across the globe closed due to the pandemic, domestic tourists started visiting Kashmir. Barring the times when there were complete lockdowns across the country, it saw a steady stream of tourists. With a recent spike in violence, the local businesses are fearful and reported a drop in bookings for the months ahead.
“Tourism was starting to boom but due to the recent surge in violence, the number of tourists visiting the valley has declined. We were hopeful of good business during winters but the current situation makes it look bleak,” said the president of Kashmir Tourist Taxi Transport Federation, Haji Abdul Rehman. “We are making efforts on our own to persuade tourists to come to the valley. We are in debt.”
President of Travel Agents Associations of Kashmir, Farooq Kuthoo, said people who want to travel to Kashmir are very skeptical and call us on regular basis to inquire about the situation. The tourism industry is in distress.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, due to the disturbances in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, J&K is not among the top 10 Indian states and union territories that attract the greatest number of domestic or international tourists. Jammu and Kashmir ranked 19th in domestic tourist visits and 23rd in foreign tourist visits as a percentage of overall tourist visits in 2019.
Kamran Nisar, owner of Winterfell Cafe and hotel said that for the last two months tourists cancelled their tours mid-way. “They had no assurances of safety. Our hotels are empty. I had a group of girls who stayed at my hotel, they also left. The only people who are still here are solo travellers.”
Basit Parray is a trainee staff writer at the Mountain Ink. He is a bachelor's student of Journalism & Mass Communication at the Cluster University, Srinagar.