Tourism, the mainstay of J&K’s economy, has been the worst hit by the ongoing turmoil in the Kashmir valley as the majority of the tourists have cancelled their bookings for the months of May and June. The state already witnessed an unprecedented decline in tourist footfalls in March and April.
“Almost 100 per cent of the package bookings of tourists, who had planned to visit Kashmir after visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine and other religious places in the Jammu province, have been cancelled due to the prevailing situation in the Valley,” said Rajesh Gupta, president of the Tourism Federation.
“In 2016, the tourism sector had suffered a loss of around Rs 3,000 crore due to the turmoil and the unrest. And this loss is likely to increase manifold if the prevailing situation continues,” he feared.
In Jammu and Katra alone there are over 750 tour operators and none of them have a single booking for the Valley over the next two months. In Kashmir, there are approximately 500 travel agents, who either work directly with the tour operators in other parts of the country or have a tie-up with their Jammu counterparts.
“In collaboration with the Tourism Department, we had organised trade fairs in December, January and February at different locations of the country to book packages for this year. Initially, some bookings were made but after the recent violence most of the bookings were cancelled and some have been put on hold,” said Gupta.
As the Valley had witnessed large-scale violence last year following the killing of Hizb militant Burhan Wani, a number of trade fairs were organised across the country to woo tourists. Travel agents were also invited to J&K to give a boost to tourism.
“All bookings for April were cancelled and there is nothing certain about the bookings for the next two months,” said Naseer Baktoo, a houseboat owner who has a tie-up with Jammu-based tour operators.
Most of the organised bookings to the Valley have been cancelled even though some tourists have been visiting Kashmir individually. “Since January this year, we have sent only one group to Srinagar,” said Sunil Tickoo of Taj International Tour and Travel. “Till the end of April last year, we had sent nearly 45 large groups to the Valley,” he said, adding that they didn’t have a single booking for the Valley for the next two months.