By: Ahmad Shabir
Pahalgam: As the government has eased Covid restrictions across the Valley, Pahalgam, a famous tourist spot, is witnessing a huge rush of visitors. The flow of local tourists at the famed spot is bringing smile on the faces of the people associated with tourism industry.
Since the government announced relaxation in Covid restrictions, allowing opening of shops on alternative days and movement of transport, Pahalgam, according to locals has been witnessing huge rush of visitors mostly locals.
Though the hotels and restaurants too have opened up at the tourist spot but many people particularly youngsters prefer to stay in tents.
To avoid eating from restaurants, most of the youngsters visiting Pahalgam, a local said, are setting up tents on the banks of Lidder and stay there.
“Though the families book rooms in hotels for night stay but youngsters can be seen doing self cooking outside the tents they erect along the banks of Lidder right from Pahalgam upto Aru,” Nazir Ahmad, a local said.
From last several days, people have been sharing videos and pictures of their enjoyment at the famed spot.
A group of boys while returning from Pahalgam told this reporter that lockdown had virtually suffocated them and two days stay in Pahalgam helped them relax mentally.
“Continuous lockdown since the Covid outbreak had depressed us to the hilt. On Sunday, we decided to rush to Pahalgam to have some mental relief. We had taken everything including pots and cooking gas choola along for self cooking. We hired a tent and fixed it on river on first night and moved to Aru for second night. It was really soothing,” a boy, who was part of the group, said.
Weekends in Pahalgam since the relaxation in lockdown, according to local hoteliers witnessed long traffic jams all around.
The pickup in local tourism has also brought smile on the faces of locals associated with tourism.
“It is almost after two years that we are doing some business. Though last year too after peak season of Covid ended we had some business but this time it is good. Since relaxation in lockdown, people mostly locals have been flooding Pahalgam,” Zubair , owner of the Wonderland hotel told Precious Kashmir.
He said that he has almost full occupancy for last two weeks. “It was only once or twice in last two weeks when one or two rooms in my hotel remained unoccupied,” Zubair said.
80 percent of the visitors, he said, are locals.
Like Zubair , other B class hoteliers too are happy over the business they have been doing for over couple of weeks.
“In last three years it is for the first time that all the 13 rooms in my hotel were occupied for a week. If third wave of Covid spares and all other things go well, it seems Pahalgam will witness a good tourism season for the first time in last several years,” said another B class hotelier.
Assistant Director Tourism, Pahalgam, Bilal Ahmad told Precious Kashmir that Pahalgam has been witnessing a huge rush of tourists for over a week.
“Though tourism activity started here two weeks ago but last week was good in terms of tourist influx. As per rough estimate over 4000 tourists enter Pahalgam every day for last over a week,” AD said.
He said 70 to 80 percent visitors are locals while as domestic tourism too has started picking in last one week.
“Since last week I think 400 to 500 tourists from outside states are entering Pahalgam daily,” AD said.
He said that those not carrying Covid test reports are tested before entering Pahalgam.
“Both outsiders and locals are tested and those testing positive are returned,” the officer said.