As Tourist Arrivals Swell, Kashmir Grapples With Room Shortage

As Tourist Arrivals Swell, Kashmir Grapples With Room Shortage

6 June 2013
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: Booming with tourist influx, Kashmir is grappling with acute shortage of hotel capacity to accommodate the mounting number of visitors with room charges ranging between Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 in quality hotels here. According to the official figures there are only 25,000 rooms available in Srinagar which includes guest houses and houseboats, while the demand is for more than one lakh rooms per day. Kashmir’s famous ski resort Gulmarg has only 1500 rooms and Pahalgam around 15,000 rooms. Although private players are eager to invest in the tourism sector, the government reluctance and Master Plan impediments, restricting construction of new hotels and guest houses proves to be major hurdle in increasing the room capacity. “There is acute dearth of hotels and guest houses in Kashmir when it comes to peak tourism season. Government should encourage entrepreneurs and private players to establish new hotels and guest houses with due consideration to the environmental concerns. They should earmark new areas where construction of hotels and guest houses be allowed.” Mushtaq Chaya, chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers Club said. He said tourism fraternity is ready to invest provided that the government facilitates them and according to him Master Plan should clearly earmark new and virgin areas for construction of hotels and guest houses. “We have many investors who are willing to invest in the hospitality industry thinking they would create job avenues for locals and also provide better services to guests that will promote Kashmir throughout the world,” he said. Showkat Chowdhary, President, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association (KHARA) echoed similar views stating that government should earmark certain areas in Master Plan for construction of Hotels and Guest Houses. “We have suggested to government that they should identify areas where permission will be given to private players for construction of hotels and guest houses so that the problem of dearth of accommodation is taken care of,” Chowdhary said. “With the Srinagar Master Plan (2001-2021) currently under review, we hope that new areas would be identified in and around Srinagar for construction of hotels and guest houses,” he said. Muhammad Shafi Rather, Vice Chairman, SDA admitted that there is a dire need for increasing room capacity for tourists in and around Srinagar. “We are in the process of Master Plan revamp in which we have earmarked some areas where the construction of hotels and guest houses will be allowed. We have duly taken into consideration the acute shortage of rooms for tourists. We will definitely try to come out with solutions in the new Master Plan to overcome the dearth of accommodation for tourists,” Rather said and added that SDA is also planning to develop an integrated commercial centre on the peripheries of Srinagar over 1500 kanals of land with planned facilities like hotels, motels, guest houses, restaurants, malls, recreational facilities, office spaces and housing. “As the Master Plan 2001-2021 is currently being reviewed, we have earmarked certain areas in North, West, East and South sides of Srinagar for construction of hotels and guest houses. We have earmarked areas for high end hotels, eco- tourism and normal tourism activities,” he said. An SDA official dealing with the Master Plan review said that in Srinagar district SDA has tentatively earmarked areas of Dara, Narbal, Habak and along Bypass for construction of tourism properties. Director Tourism, Talat Pervez, said: “During this season we have on average 45,000 tourist arrivals. Although we have shortage of rooms but it takes time to construct hotels and guest houses and in order to overcome the shortage of accommodation we are encouraging the Paying Guest Culture, so that people can come forward and register their property with us under Tourism Trade Act to host tourist in their properties.”