1.25 Million Tourists And Counting In 2024 So Far – Kashmir To Set New Record

IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir

Srinagar: Tourist arrivals in Kashmir are set to break all previous records as more than 1.25 million tourists have already come here to date this year.

Officials of the local tourism department have said that over 12.5 lakh tourists have so far visited Kashmir and going by the present trend, the year 2024 is likely to break all previous records.

At present, all local hotels in Srinagar city, in the ski resort of Gulmarg and the hill stations of Pahalgam and Sonamarg are completely sold out till the middle of June.

“What is true of hotels in these places is also true of guest houses, homestays, houseboats on the Dal and the Nigeen Lakes and other such lodging facilities in Kashmir at the moment,” said an official here.

More encouraging this year is the fact that with the improved law and order situation and the prevailing peace, foreign tourists have started coming to Kashmir in good numbers.

“We earn foreign exchange once the foreign tourists start coming to Kashmir. In addition to this, most of the foreign tourists are high-end tourists whose average spending during their stay is more than the average domestic tourists. Not that the domestic tourists do not include high-end guests. The few 5-star hotels we have in the Valley are also completely sold out these days and the majority of their guests are domestic spenders,” said a member of the Hoteliers Club of Kashmir.

Normally the tourist arrivals start coming down with the beginning of the annual Amarnath Yatra due to the heavy rush of pilgrims who come for ‘Darshan’ at the cave shrine situated 3888 metres above sea level in Kashmir Himalayas.

This year, Amarnath Yatra starts on June 29 and will conclude after 52 days on August 19.

Hoteliers believe that given the number of bookings being made presently, it is unlikely that the tourist arrivals would be affected by the ensuing Amarnath Yatra.

One of the reasons for the unlikely fall in the number of tourist arrivals this year in Kashmir is the soaring temperature in the rest of the country.

“There are of course other hill stations like Shimla, Darjeeling and Nainital in the country, but they cannot match the tourist uptake capacity of Kashmir”, said a local tour and travel operator who has been in business for more than four decades.

At present, tourists are mainly coming to the Valley from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Local tour and travel operators say the tourist flow from Delhi and Punjab will start in the middle of the next month.

The tourism industry is the second main industry in Kashmir after horticulture. While horticulture is believed to generate ₹ 10,000 crore for the local economy, the tourism industry is believed to pump in another ₹ 8000 crore annually into the local economy.

While the earnings from horticulture are restricted to orchard owners, tourism sustains hoteliers, houseboat owners, Shikarawallahs on the Dal Lake, taxi operators, pony wallahs, tourist guides and travel operators in addition to handicraft artisans like shawl, carpet, wood carving and papier machie craftsmen.__NDTV reports