Down to a trickle but some tourists still in Kashmir

August 14th, 2008 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 14 (IANS) With the recent troubles in the Kashmir Valley, tourism has slumped but some domestic and foreign visitors are still holidaying in famed spots like Gulmarg and Pahalgam, say travel industry insiders. “Even at this time, we have around 2,000 tourists at places like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Leh,” said Farooq Ahmad Shah, Kashmir tourism department director.

“Many tourists use the valley as a transit point to travel to the Ladakh region of the state which is quite peaceful and where people prefer to go in the autumn,” Shah told IANS.

Admitting that tourist arrivals have dwindled to a trickle, he said: “We still have tourist arrivals here, especially of those travelling to the Ladakh region via the scenic Srinagar-Leh highway.”

“Yes, there are some tourists here, but it is nothing compared to what we would have expected during normal days,” said Gowhar Maqbool, a hotelier in this summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.

For hoteliers, taxi operators, roadside tea stall owners and others in the valley, where tourism is a mainstay, what is particularly galling is that this was turning out to be a boom year for the valley with 575,000 tourists till the end of July - more than any year since 1990 when militancy broke out, pointed out an official.

The figure, he clarified, does not include the 600,000 pilgrims for the Amarnath shrine.

The valley has been on the boil since May when the government decided to allot 40 hectares of land to the Amarnath shrine board. It then revoked the decision prompting furious protests in Jammu.

Almost two months later, trouble has cascaded with both Jammu and Kashmir gripped with tension.

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