Kashmir tourist arrivals up 60 percent


SRINAGAR, India – In what would warm the cockles of tourism traders, the tourist arrivals to Kashmir in February so far have gone up by an impressive 60 percent.

According to official figures a total of 45,129 tourists arrived this month so far in Kashmir. Last year the figure for the entire month was 17,062 while a year earlier it was 21,097.

“Even though last year’s tourist footfall was extremely low on the back of massive floods in 2014, the response this year is positive,” Ghulam Jeelani Zargar, Deputy Director (Recreation) JK Tourism department said.

“The daily average tourist arrivals in Kashmir are almost 2500,” Zargar said believing that massive marketing by the department was the reason for increasing the arrivals. “This year we have already participated in promotional road shows in Indore, Nagpur, Raipur, Surat and Mumbai. The association with local travel bodies has helped us generate positive publicity,” Zargar said.

He said the department is presently participating in the outbound travel mart being held in Mumbai.

“We will reach out to all major Indian cities which are famous golfing destinations in order to provide a boost to golfing tourism in the Valley,” he said.

’The ‘Kashmir Calling’ campaign and various ad initiatives run throughout India last year translated into a healthy tourist figure this year. Our participation in all travel fairs in major cities has provided a boost to tourist inflow into the Kashmir Valley,” he said.

“The objective is to showcase Kashmir as a safe destination and counter post-2014 flood negative coverage by the Indian media. Such was the devastating effect of the negative publicity that 60 percent tourist bookings were cancelled in the wake of March 2015 rains,” he said.

Pertinently, the department recently participated in the 5th India Heritage Tourism Conclave at Jaipur.

President, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Federation (KHAROF), Asif Burza said there has been a significant increase in hotel bookings this winter as compared to the winter seasons during last three years.

However, he said tourist inflow to Gulmarg has been less as compared to Srinagar and Pahalgam. “The tourist rush to Gulmarg was abysmal due to less snowfall this year but huge number of tourists went into Pahalgam and Srinagar this winter.

“It is exciting that even before onset of spring, the tourist inflow has already received a boost,” Burza said.