COVID-19 hits tourism industry hard in Kashmir, revival chances look bleak

COVID-19 hits tourism industry hard in Kashmir, revival chances look bleak


Afaq Bhat

Srinagar, May 4: The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in Kashmir has proved to be the last nail in the coffin of ailing tourism industry in the Valley.
An analyst while talking to Precious Kashmir said, “Kashmir has been witnessing uncertainty for the past nine months now. All the businesses have collapsed. The tourism sector has been the worst hit.”
It’s in place to mention here that tourists left Kashmir on August 2, 2019, when the J&K government issued an advisory asking visitors, Amarnath pilgrims and other non-locals to vacate the Valley in wake of a militant threat. “We were witnessing a peak season at that point of time as the hotels, guesthouses and houseboats were full,” said a travel agent, adding that “since that day tourists have not returned to Kashmir.”
The advisory asking tourists to leave was issued three days before August 5, 2019, when Centre announced its decision to revoke J&K’s special status and divided it into two Union Territories.
A businessman said that Kashmir’s Tourism industry turning defunct has led to thousands of youth losing their jobs. “Hotels, restaurants, transporters and others used to employ youth from different backgrounds. These youth have been sitting idle for long now. This sector has suffered immense losses. Businessmen had invested huge money in the tourism infrastructure but all their assets and buildings are empty,” he added.
An observer said, “The outbreak of COVID-19 has had far reaching effect on the tourism sector in the Valley. This pandemic has hit everyone across the country.  Even if the COVID-19 fear ends it looks difficult that people will plan any holidays in near future as this pandemic has hit every section of the society very hard.”
He said that the government should announce a special financial package for the people associated with the Tourism Industry. “These people need help. If they are not provided any succor they will crumble under their own weight. Kashmir economy is in doldrums and people need a breathing space to overcome the crisis which they are witnessing at present.”
A travel agent, who is into the business of organizing package tours, said, “As on date we have no bookings for Kashmir. In March month we had received many queries. People wanted to visit Kashmir for a holiday. But after the COVID-19 outbreak all the booking have been cancelled. There is very little hope about any tourists visiting Kashmir this year.”