Tourism Defeats Terror In Kashmir

Tourism Defeats Terror In Kashmir

19 April 2013
DNA
Ishfaq-ul-Hassan

Srinagar: Contrary to govt fears, tourist arrivals in the Valley after Afzal Guru's hanging have broken records. Paradise is on a high as tourists arrivals have beaten last year’s record despite separatist- sponsored unrest and spurt in militancy-related activities post-Afzal Guru hanging. Tourism officials say around two lakh tourists have visited the Valley so far this year, which is 50,000 more than the corresponding figure of 2012. Interestingly, around 1.25 lakh tourists visited Kashmir after the hanging of the Parliament attack accused. “Tourism arrivals are picking up by the day. The improvement in situation has definitely helped. For the last 15 days, there has been no hartal so it has helped the tourism sector,” Azmat Ali, deputy director, tourism department, Kashmir, told dna. Officials said the 2013 had started on a very positive note with around 75,000 tourists coming in January alone. But things slowed down after the hanging of Guru on February 9 with tourists cancelling their bookings. The month recorded the lowest arrivals of 25,000 tourists, most of them visiting in the first nine days. Come Spring, the tourist arrivals started picking up again. The opening of the Asia’s biggest tulip garden last month created a ‘feel good factor’ prompting tourists to beat the scare and arrive in Kashmir. From March to April, so far nearly one lakh tourists visited the Valley. Tourism is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy after horticulture and handicrafts. Official figures reveal that last year around 13.11 lakh tourists visited Kashmir. They included 37,000 foreigners which is a record in the last 23 years of turmoil. In 2011, around 1.3 million tourists had visited Kashmir. “Tourism is related with peace. If there is peace the tourists flow will increase. People take time off to unwind. If there is no peace how will they enjoy. So peace is imperative for tourism,” said Ali. Good tourist rush has also given people associated with tourism trade a big reason to smile. “It has started picking up. We hope tourism arrivals will further pick up as summer vacations are just round the corner in schools of different states,” said Adil Khan, general secretary, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Association. This year the Jammu and Kashmir government is expecting record number of tourists given the available trends.“We can easily surpass last year’s figures of 13.11 lakh tourists this year if the situation remains peaceful in the valley through the summer,” said an official.