Tourism Still Down In J&K On Taliban Fears

29 April 2009
The Indian Express

Jammu: With earlier reports of presence of Taliban in Kashmir, which have now been proved false, and the ongoing elections tourist arrivals in Jammu and Kashmir have come down to trickle. The tourism industry is still trying to recover from the losses it had suffered during the near two month long agitation over the transfer of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) which was called off on August 31 last year, since then the tourist arrivals to the state have reduced considerably. “The occupancy in the hotels has now come down to 10-15 per cent. Last year before the Amarnath agitation started in June it was around 60 per cent. Usually during the summers people from other parts of the country throng the state as it is holiday time in the other states including Delhi. The only people who have booked space at the hotels presently are those who are coming to the state for business purposes” said Kuldeep Wahi, President of Jammu Hotel and Restaurant Association. The tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir had already been struggling to recover from the losses it suffered due to the Amarnath agitation with the estimated loss to the tourism industry being pegged at Rs 500 crore. “Our tourism sector has been badly hit for the last more than nine months. During the agitation for transfer of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) the tourism industry was badly hit. For the entire two months there was not a single tourist who came to Jammu and even the Mata Vaishno Devi yatra was also affected” added Wahi. “Now there are elections and worst was the reports about the presence of the Taliban in Kashmir Valley and the heightened militant activity ahead of the Lok Sabha polls” he said. Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister, Nawang Rigzin Jora, said that the tourism industry in the state was badly hit due to the ongoing elections and the reports about the presence of Taliban. “We have denied reports about the presence of Taliban in the state. Now we are also organising familiarity tours of the tour operators from outside the state here to apprise them that the conditions have normalised” he said. “This is being done after we issued the statement that there was no Taliban in Kashmir, but the reports have done the damage”.