Kashmir unrest takes toll, tourism hit

Street protests, shutdowns and curfew in the Valley besides flash-floods in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir marred the tourism season in the state this year.

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2010, 10:50 AM IST

Srinagar: Street protests, shutdowns and
curfew in the Valley besides flash-floods in Ladakh region of
Jammu and Kashmir marred the tourism season in the state this
year.

The tourism season in Kashmir this year began on a
positive note with more than five lakh tourists visiting the
northern-most area of the country in the first five months and
authorities were hoping to break the 23-year-old record of
nearly one million arrivals.

However, these hopes were dashed with the beginning of
the five-month unrest in the Valley in June and flash floods
triggered by cloudburst in Ladakh region.

"Before the stone pelting started (in June), more than
five lakh tourist had visited Kashmir which was more than the
entire number that visited last year," Jammu and Kashmir
Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora said.

The minister said the tourism season in Ladakh, a
prime destination for foreign tourists visiting the state, was
hit by the flash-floods, which left a trail of devastation
this August.

"The flood (in Ladkah) caused a problem," Jora said.

As Kashmir Valley slowly limps back towards normalcy,
after remaining locked down for most of the summer this year,
tourists are also flocking to the region known for its
hospitality and natural beauty.

"Tourists are coming but the number is not much," Jora
said.

The tourism department officials say the arrival of
domestic and foreign tourists to Kashmir Valley this month is
better than the previous five months.

"November, despite being a lean month in terms of
tourist arrivals, has been better than October. Last 10-12
days have been good and if the situation continues to improve,
we can expect the numbers to increase," a senior official of
the department said.

Tourism officials are now counting on the snowfall,
and the possibilities it throws up for winter sports in
Kashmir, to attract the tourists back to the Valley.

The snowfall in Kashmir begins in late November in the
upper reaches of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonmarg, which are the
prime winter tourist destinations.

Officials said most of the domestic tourists arriving
here are from Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal and the
foreign tourists are mostly coming from southeast Asian
countries like Malaysia and Thailand.

PTI