Kashmir tourism in predicament

Tourism presupposes a peaceful and congenial socio-political atmosphere. Tourists normally want to interact closely with the hosts and local social and economic circles. They dislike to be treated as aliens from whom money is to be extracted with or without good will of the people. This is of significance in Kashmir valley where tourist season has set in.  But booking in hotels or houseboats is not beyond 15 to 20 per cent which is all time low record and indicates that the ongoing unrest and uncertainty in the Valley is the main cause of shortfall in the percentage of booking.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Kashmir valley are involved in tourist industry in one way or the other. Sometimes people go to the extent of saying that tourism is the backbone of Kashmir economy. We do not contribute to that theory though no doubt tourism is potential source of generating economy in the State and especially in Kashmir valley. Last year was very bad for Kashmir tourism when civil unrest prevailed for more than four months. It has chased away thousands of tourists from Kashmir during the peak time of Kashmir tourism. The tourist season has begun in Kashmir but the symptoms suggest that political situation is likely to flare up once again for one or the other pretext.
Undoubtedly, this situation is detrimental to the tourist footfall in the Valley. Postponing of by-election in Anantnag has further worsened the situation because fresh elections will take place at a time that is the peak time for tourists’ visits to Kashmir. According to the Chairman of Association of Hoteliers, total loss to the tourist industry during the last summer strike that continued for about five months was to the tune of 3000 crore rupees. This is not a small sum. Besides, what is of more significance is the loss of trust which the Kashmiri hoteliers had steadily built with their customers.
We understand the point of hoteliers and all those who are associated with tourist industry in the valley. However, the atmosphere is vitiated by those who encourage and support the miscreants to embark on stone pelting in a massive way and giving calls of regular strikes. It is vitiated by the leaders who deliver communally poisonous statements loaded with hatred and defiance. The huge losses suffered by the people in the Valley particularly those who are associated with hotel industry are essentially because of militancy and disorder ardently supported by local ambivalent political leadership. Unless these disruptive forces are dealt with sternly, the youth will continue to indulge in subversion and tourism industry will go defunct. The remedy lies in thousands and lakhs of people who earn their bread through tourist industry muster courage and rise in opposition to the troublemaking and disruptive elements in Kashmirian society. It is no use targeting the Government for non-action because Government is partly an accomplice in fomenting the scenario of disturbance. Tourism is a vast industry and the structure is in place. The bolts and nails are capable of functioning properly. All that is needed is to contain the people-hostile political leadership in Kashmir, which is banking on either recourse to religious sensitivity or money power. Unless tourism related segment of population comes out on streets to wrest and protect their economic rights, their enemies will go on making one or the other mischief to scuttle tourist seasons in Kashmir. The realization has to come to them.

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