Srinagar: Tourism officials monitoring tourist arrivals in Kashmir valley are confident that the current year will witness record breaking tourism. Secretary Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez told this reporter that they have worked hard for the past two years despite Covid restrictions in the entire country, to bring tourists back to Kashmir valley.
“We have worked as a team along with tourism stakeholders such as travel agents, hoteliers and houseboat owners. We have all worked together and the trends of the current year indicate that the footfall of tourists would be record breaking,” Sarmad Hafeez told The Sunday Guardian. The figures available with the officials of J&K administration said that in March 2022, more than 1.65 lakh tourists arrived in Kashmir valley and if the arrivals show such a trend, Kashmir is poised to break the previous record of 13 lakh tourist arrivals in 2011.
On 28 March this year, Director Srinagar Airport told the media that the highest-ever 90 flights operated to and from Srinagar international airport, with a passenger footfall of 15,000, mostly tourists. Secretary Tourism, J&K Administration, Sarmad Hafeez added that Kashmir is witnessing a tourism boom and high-spending tourists are visiting the Valley this time.
J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha recently doubled efforts for investments and also visited Dubai and signed many contracts on behalf of the J&K government with big firms for investments in Kashmir valley. The J&K administration is trying to get investments in the tourism sector and according to officials, they will invite investors, especially from Dubai, to build modern hotels and other facilities in line with the latest tourism industry protocol. With Kashmir becoming a favourite tourism destination following the easing of Covid restrictions, the government has been able to convey to tour operators across the country that Kashmir is a safe destination. “We are booked for the next three to four months and if this trend continues, we will have bookings throughout the year,” said Nadeem Ahmad, the owner of a hotel at Srinagar’s Boulevard Road.
Like Nadeem, all hoteliers and houseboat owners are also visibly happy that they have full bookings for the next few months and even the shikara-wallas have long queues of people waiting for their turn to have a shikara ride on the Dal Lake. The government has already said that they have identified 75 new tourist destinations across Jammu and Kashmir, apart from new trekking and mountaineering sites that would be thrown open during the current season.