Tourism Sector In Tatters As Footfall Declines Drastically

25 September 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Amir Karim Tantray

Srinagar: 'Hello, I am calling from... please cancel my booking at the hotel.' Such calls are being received by hoteliers in Jammu and Kashmir from customers across the country. Floods have wreaked havoc in the state and impacted the tourism industry as well. The tourism industry has suffered both infrastructural and economic losses due to the floods. Almost all tourism-related activity has stopped, with hotels presenting a deserted look. In the summer capital of the state, Srinagar, most of the hotels and lodges have been damaged by the floods. The water level in the Dal Lake rose recently and inundated most of its surrounding areas, including the Boulevard road, where hundreds of hotel and lodges are located. Besides, hotels, lodges and guest houses near the banks of the Jhelum and in the posh colonies of Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, commercial hub Lal Chowk, Residency Road, Tourist Reception Centre and MA Road were submerged in the floodwaters. Some of the famous hotels in Srinagar, Grand Mumtaz, Ahdoos and Broadway, were also inundated and have suffered huge losses to infrastructure and economy. The biggest issue for hoteliers in Srinagar city at present is cancellation of bookings. They don't see any hope of attracting tourists in the near future. 'We have faced huge infrastructural loss which we will try to overcome in the coming days. But the biggest worry is that tourists from outside are in no mood to head to Srinagar anymore. It may take us six months to one year to convince them to come back to the Valley,' said Mushtaq Chaya, owner of Grand Mumtaz hotel. 'In the absence of tourists, it will be difficult to cope as we have to pay our staff and spend on repair and maintenance,' he said. An unofficial figure says there are around 2,000 hotels in Srinagar with a capacity of around 16,000 beds. The state government believes that the losses incurred by the tourism industry due to the floods are around Rs 150 crore. 'Of the 16,000-bedded accommodations available, around 9,000 are safe and we are on the job to revive the industry in a month or so,' said state Tourism Minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir. 'As per preliminary information, it looks like the loss would be around Rs 150 crore. The damage has occurred mainly to the hotels on the banks of the Dal Lake and the Jhelum and Verinag, Kokernag and a few other areas in Anantnag district,' said Talat Parvez, Director, Tourism, Kashmir. Though the other famous tourist destinations Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Yusmarg and Achabal in the Valley have not been hit by the floods, no tourists are visiting the places as well. Chaya believes that the overall loss to tourism in the Valley could be around Rs 2,000 crore. The pilgrimage to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine is the main source of economy for the tourism industry in Jammu. More than 10 million people offer prayers at the shrine every year. During Navratras, the rush at the shrine in Katra is at its peak. Due to the floods, all hotel bookings have been cancelled and a lesser number of pilgrims are coming to Jammu, the city of temples. 'We are facing almost Rs 2 crore loss per day since September 3 when the rain started playing havoc in the state. All bookings for Navratras have been cancelled and hotels are empty,' said Inderjeet Khajuria, president of the All Jammu Hotels and Lodges Association. 'The way the floods in J&K are being reported outside, tourists are not eager to come here, which is a big loss to this industry,' he said. Meanwhile, the official figure of loss to the tourism industry in the Jammu region is around Rs 12 crore. We have faced huge infrastructural loss which we will try to overcome in the coming days. But the biggest worry is that tourists from outside are in no mood to head to Srinagar anymore. It may take us six months to one year to convince them to come back to the Valley. The overall loss to tourism in the Valley could be around Rs 2,000 crore.~ - Mushtaq Chaya, owner of Grand Mumtaz hotel