August 15: The tourism sector, which is a major contributor to employment and economy in Kashmir, has been the worst-hit in the ongoing unrest with even film stars changing their shooting plans.
According to a Tourism Department spokesman, actor Salman Khan, who was scheduled to be in Kashmir for shooting of his new film reportedly changed the destination to Ladakh in view of inability of the team to come to the Valley. The number of tourists, both domestic and foreign, has also witnessed a steep decline with most of the advance bookings cancelled, he said.
The spokesman said the tourism destinations and hotels both in the private and government sector had been the worst-affected and most of the hotels had zero occupancy. “From August 1 to 12 a total of 10,059 tourists visited the Kashmir valley against 89,243 tourists during the same period last year,” he said, adding that many private hotels had opted for job cuts impacting local employment.
Managing Director, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation, Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary said most of the properties in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Yousmarg and other destinations had two to four per cent occupancy presently which ought to be 90 to cent per cent. Similarly, accommodation of the Tourism Department and Tourism Development Authorities are having a shortfall of 90-95 per cent as compared to the last year. In view of declined footfall, the JKTDC has announced 50 per cent discount across the Kashmir valley to encourage more tourists.
However, the tourist footfall at other destinations of the state, especially the Ladakh region, has seen a constant rise. More foreign tourists are arriving for a host of activities and stay there. A number of film shooting crews are also in Ladakh this season. Against 35,978 tourists in July last year, 47,647 tourists visited Leh in July this year, including 10,657 foreign tourists.
The Directorate of Tourism, Jammu has also reported an increase in tourism this year which is linked to the rise in pilgrims visiting Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and Shri Shiv Khori Shrine.