Tourism in Kashmir hit by second wave of COVID-19

Srinagar: The second wave of COVID-19 has badly hit tourism in Kashmir valley.

According to the local tourist operators, tourism season gradually picked up from October last year. Heavy snowfall in the last winter attracted thousands of tourists in Kashmir especially in Gulmarg where the grand sports event ‘Khelo India’ was organized by the government. The opening of the Tulip Garden in March this year further catalyzed the influx of visitors.

Speaking to ANI, Rauf Tramboo, President, Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir, said, “We could see a ray of hope in November-December last year as tourists were arriving. All the stakeholders were happy. From January to March there was so much demand for accommodation in Gulmarg. Till April bookings were intact and the industry was in a comfortable position.”

“The tourism industry is considered the backbone of the economy and has a huge potential to generate employment for thousands of people. We expected good footfall of tourists in the coming months but the second wave of COVID infections in the country has altered the situation. All the stakeholders including hoteliers, houseboat owners, travel agents, shikara owners and others are worried in the valley due to ninety percent cancellation of bookings. Only those tourists who had already made their bookings for the month of April came in small numbers,” he added.

Representational photo
Representational photo

Ratna, a tourist, told ANI that the valley is more beautiful than she expected but she could not enjoy it fully as there was a fear in her mind regarding COVID-19.

“The valley is beautiful. But I was scared due to COVID-19. Everywhere COVID rules are being followed. There was sanitization facility everywhere,” Ratna said.

“After October-November last year there was good traffic of tourists. There was even a shortage of accommodation due to high tourist footfall. COVID protocols and SOPs are being followed strictly followed here be it hotels and other places. After the second COVID wave, tourist footfall reduced by almost 90 per cent,” Zulifkar, a travel agent, told ANI.

“Tourists were coming after snowfall in December. But in April, things started to change due to upsurge in COVID cases in the country,” said Bilal Ahmad, a houseboat owner.