Kashmir Tourism Could Take A Hit

Kashmir Tourism Could Take A Hit

16 March 2013
Business Standard
Ruchika Chitravanshi

New Delhi: Rising tension, curfew and violence in Kashmir could spoil the travel plans of tourists, right at the onset of the peak travel season. Jammu and Kashmir had received a record number of over 10 million tourists last year. “Early bookings to Kashmir were showing robust growth but in the last few weeks the momentum has come down. If the tensions continue it would spell bad news for the summer travel in Kashmir,” said Sharat Dhall, President –Online, Yatra.com. The UK, for instance, has issued advisories in the light of recent developments in the Valley after the hanging of terror suspect Afzal Guru. The foreign and commonwealth office has advised against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of the cities of Jammu and Srinagar. “If you’re in Kashmir, monitor the media, avoid large crowds and take extra care. There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. Recent attacks have targeted public places including those visited by foreigners,” the travel advisory said. Luxury properties like Vivanta by Taj and Lalit hotel which made hay during the peak season are hoping that the situation will tide over. “Season starts from April. There could be a few cancellations but let us see how things turn out in the coming weeks. Last year was exceptional,” said Veer Vijay Singh, chief operating officer, Vivanta by Taj. The hotel had over 80% occupancy last year with tariffs going up to Rs 17,000. Currently, its at 60%, with room rates ranging between Rs 14,000 and 15,000. Encouraged by the huge number of tourists last year and the shortage in supply of hotel rooms, various small properties including guest houses, non-branded three star hotels have also come up fast in Kashmir during the last one year. “If there is a fall in demand, they will suffer most losses,” Dhall added. According to industry estimates, as of last year there are over 43,000 rooms available in Jammu and Kashmir. “There is a slight drop in occupancy levels, but we are hoping that things will become normal in a few days,” said Jyotsna Suri, chairperson, Lalit Group of Hotels. The Budget 2013 has made provision for construction of Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering at Gulmarg, Kashmir as a part of government’s efforts to boost tourism infrastructure in the country. “Last year we saw around 20-25% growth in tourism in Kashmir which is also a big revenue generator for the state. So if the situation continues then we will be falling from a peak,” said Subhash Goyal, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators.