Only 10,059 tourists have visited the state this month compared to around 90,000 in July
The recent unrest in Kashmir, where over 60 people have died, and the resultant curfew, now in the seventh week, have resulted in huge losses for the tourism industry in the Valley. Luxury and mid-segment hotels in Kashmir that regularly saw advance bookings are now running empty.
Properties such as the Vivanta by Taj, Dal View, and The Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar, have seen occupancy plummet to under 8 per cent, significantly lower than the approximate 80 per cent reported last month.
“Till July the occupancy rate at the Taj was 88 per cent. That is now down to 0.5 per cent in August”, said Cyrus Mistry, chairman, Indian Hotels Company, while addressing shareholders at the company’s 115th annual general meeting.
Perched on the Kralsangri hill, the Vivanta offers a panoramic view of the Dal Lake, surrounded by the Zabarwan mountains. The hotel, which has 81 rooms and three suites, is presently running almost empty. Similarly, Kashmir's other branded luxury property, The Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar, presently has an occupancy rate of 7 per cent as compared to 60-70 per cent in July.
With scheduled leisure trips getting cancelled or postponed hoteliers are being forced to sell rooms at half the usual rate. Rooms that cost Rs 12,000 a night in an upscale four-star hotel earlier are now available for around Rs 6,000 a night.
While house boats on the Dal Lake wear a deserted look, sources say most popular luxury hotels, which were booked till September, are witnessing mass cancellations following the spate of violence.
Godfrey Pereira, head (holiday products) at Via.com, said, “In Jammu and Kashmir, the tourism season goes on till August. But since last month, we have seen disturbances. Compared to a monthly average of 50 packages for the state in the May-June period, we have not seen any bookings this month. Bookings made earlier have all been cancelled.”
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Board, nearly 90,000 tourists flocked to the state in July, leading to packed house boats on the Dal Lake. However, with the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani, there has been a massive clampdown on free movement by security forces, with just 10,059 tourists visiting the state so far this month.
“Due to the current scenario, our occupancy rate at R K Sarovar Portico, Srinagar, has come down to 6 per cent. Before this we were doing 59 per cent a month and 81 per cent (year-to-date)”, said a spokesperson of Sarovar Hotels.
This has also led to producers of many big and medium Bollywood films shifting the location to Himachal Pradesh for filming their movies, said the secretary of J&K Tourism on Saturday.
Likewise, some tourists have opted to holiday in Himachal Pradesh and other neighbouring destinations. A number of film shooting crews are also in Ladakh this season. Against 35,978 tourists in July 2015, 47,647 visited Leh in July 2016, including 10,657 foreign tourists.
Until February, the J&K tourism board said it was expecting a record number of tourists this year. In 2015, the state saw total arrivals of around 1.2 million, of which about 1 per cent were foreigners.