Tourism sector which is a major contributor towards employment and economy in Kashmir has been worst hit in the ongoing unrest with even film stars changing their shooting plans adding to the declined footfall this season.
According to a Tourism Department spokesman, actor Salman Khan who was scheduled to be in Kashmir for shooting of his new film was reported to have changed the destination to Ladakh in view of inability of the team to shoot the film the Valley.
The number of tourists, both domestic and foreign, has also witnessed a steep decline with most of the advance bookings to cancelled, he said.
The Spokesman said the tourism destinations and hotels both in private and government sector have been worst affected and most of the hotels are left with zero occupancy. “During the period of 1st to 12th August a total of 10,059 tourists visited Kashmir valley against 89,243 tourists during same period in last year,” he said adding many private hotels have also proceeded for job cuts affecting local employment.
Managing Director, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation, Dr Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary informed that most of the properties in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Yousmarg and other destinations have 2-4% occupancy presently which ought to be 90-100%. Similarly, accommodations of Tourism Department and Tourism Development Authorities are having a shortfall of 90-95% compared to last year. In view of declined footfall, JKTDC has announced 50% discount in all accommodations across Kashmir valley to encourage more tourists.
However, tourist footfall at other destinations of state especially Ladakh region has seen a constant rise especially more number of foreign tourists arriving for a host of activities and stays. A number of film shooting crews are also in Ladakh this season. Against 35978 tourists in July 2015, 47647 tourists visited Leh in July 2016 including 10657 foreign tourists.
Directorate of Tourism, Jammu has also reported an increase in tourism this year which is linked to increase in pilgrim tourism especially because of rise of pilgrims at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and Shri Shiv Khori Shrine.