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Rising tensions could hamper Kashmir tourism

Last updated on: March 18, 2013 13:28 IST

Rising tensions could hamper Kashmir tourism

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Ruchika Chitravanshi in New Delhi


Rising tension, curfew and violence in Kashmir could spoil the travel plans of tourists at the onset of the peak travel season.

Jammu & Kashmir had received record 10 million tourists last year.

"Early bookings were showing robust growth but in the past 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.

Britain, for instance, has issued advisories in the light of recent developments in the Valley after the hanging of terrorist convict Afzal Guru.

Their foreign office has advised against all travel to Jammu & 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.

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Image: Kashmiri vegetable sellers gather at a floating market on Dal Lake in Srinagar.
Photographs: Kamal Kishore/Reuters
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Luxury properties such as Vivanta by Taj and Lalit Hotel, which thrived during the previous peak season, are hoping the situation will tide over.

"The 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 per cent occupancy last year, with daily room rates tariffs going up to Rs 17,000. Currently, its at 60 per cent, with room rates at Rs 14,000-15,000.

Encouraged by the huge number of tourists last year and the shortage in supply of hotel rooms, various small properties (including guest houses and non-branded three-star hotels) have come up in J&K during the past year.

"If there is a fall in demand, they will suffer the most losses," Dhall added.

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Image: A view from Taj's Dal View Hotel in Srinagar.
Photographs: Courtesy, The Indian Hotels Company Limited
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According to estimates as of last year, there are a little over 43,000 rooms available in the state.

"There is a slight drop in occupancy levels but we are hoping things will become normal in a few days," said Jyotsna Suri, chairperson, Lalit Group of Hotels.

This year's Union Budget made provision for construction of an Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering at Gulmarg, Kashmir, as a part of government effort to boost tourism infrastructure in the country.

"Last year, we saw 20-25 per cent growth in tourism in Kashmir, which is also a big revenue generator for the state. If the situation continues, then we will be falling from a peak," said Subhash Goyal, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators.


Image: Tourists and skiers ski on a slope in Gulmarg, 55 km (34 miles) west of Srinagar.
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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