Kashmir – Paradise for tourists amidst scorching summer

Kashmir Valley, known for its picturesque landscapes and serene beauty, is emerging as the most preferred destination for tourists this year as over 12.5 lakh tourists have visited Kashmir so far and going by the current trend, the year 2024 is poised to break all previous records.

Kashmir is experiencing a tourism boom in 2024, with over 1.25 million visitors, benefiting the local economy. The surge in tourism is due to the improved law and order situation, which attracts tourists from across India and abroad. The increase in tourism has a ripple effect on other industries, including horticulture and handicrafts.

Kashmir is known for its lush greenery and forests, crystal-clear rivers, snow-capped mountains, and stunning gardens built by the Mughal Emperors. The region abounds in mountain lakes. The Dal and Nagin Lakes area in the center of Srinagar, with hundreds of houseboats anchored. Outside the city, the Wular Lake, one of Asia’s largest freshwater lakes, is essential for fishing activities, while the Manasbal lake is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The famous hill stations, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonmarg, once the favorite resorts for the British, offer a range of hotels to stay in and enjoy nature. In winter, they turn into attractive ski resorts.

2023 has been a productive year for Kashmir’s Tourism sector with Gulmarg alone recording 1.65 million tourist arrivals during the year. The ski-resort saw an average footfall of 5,000 tourists a day. Gulmarg witnessed a peak in tourist numbers during June and July, with June alone attracting 2,08,011 visitors. The iconic Gulmarg Gondola, Asia’s highest cable car, remained a major attraction, providing panoramic views of snow-capped peaks.

The main tourists visiting Kashmir in 2024 are primarily from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Maharashtra. There is also an expected increase in foreign tourists, particularly high-end tourists from countries like the United States and Europe.

The local economy in Kashmir has significantly benefited from this growth in tourism. The tourism industry is the second main industry in the region after horticulture, contributing around Rs 8,000 crore annually to the local economy. This boost in tourism directly gives a boost to hotels, houseboats, Shikarawallahs (boatmen), taxi operators, and tourist guides, providing employment and income opportunities. Additionally, the growth in tourism indirectly benefits local artisans involved in handicrafts like shawls, carpets, wood carvings, and papier machie, as these traditional crafts are popular souvenirs for tourists.

The 2024 tourist season holds significant importance for the overall economy of Jammu and Kashmir, as it is witnessing a record-breaking influx of tourists. This surge not only directly benefits the tourism sector but also has a ripple effect on other industries, including the horticulture industry.

Notably, all accommodations in key tourist hotspots like Srinagar city, the picturesque Gulmarg ski resort, and the idyllic hill stations of Pahalgam and Sonamarg are fully booked until mid-June. This surge in bookings extends to guest houses, homestays, and houseboats dotting the serene Dal and Nigeen Lakes, underlining the irresistible allure of Kashmir’s natural beauty.

A standout trend this year is the rising number of foreign tourists, drawn by the region’s improved law and order situation and prevailing atmosphere of peace. The influx of international visitors holds significant economic potential, given their propensity for higher spending compared to domestic tourists.

Despite the impending Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage, which typically dampens record breaking tourists arrivals due to the influx of pilgrims, hoteliers remain buoyant about sustained tourism levels, buoyed by robust pre-bookings.

The scorching temperatures gripping other parts of the country have further fueled the rush of tourists to Kashmir, with the region emerging as the preferred destination over traditional hill stations like Shimla, Darjeeling, and Nainital.

In July and August, tons of Hindu pilgrims camp around Kashmir and undertake the pilgrimage to Amarnath every year. The summer is a perfect time to enjoy the famous houseboats and a shikara ride on Dal lake. The flowers of the Mughal garden are in full blossom, and the whole Betaab valley is in picturesque greenery.

Currently, tourists predominantly hail from states such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Maharashtra, with expectations of a surge in visitors from Delhi and Punjab anticipated in the coming weeks.

The tourism sector stands as Kashmir’s second-largest economic pillar after horticulture, injecting an estimated INR 8,000 crore annually into the local economy. This economic lifeline sustains a multitude of stakeholders, including hoteliers, houseboat owners, tour guides, and artisans, bolstering livelihoods and fostering prosperity across the region.

The government’s ambitious vision of positioning Kashmir as a global tourism hotspot gained significant traction in 2023, with the valley playing host to prestigious international events, including the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting and the Miss Universe press conference. More recently, an inaugural Formula-4 (F4) car racing event took place in Srinagar in March this year.

Moreover, the silver screen also embraced the allure of Jammu and Kashmir, with more than 50 movies shot amidst its breathtaking vistas over the past year. This cinematic embrace, alongside the government’s concerted efforts to foster stability, has proved instrumental in revitalising the tourism sector.

Diversification emerged as a key strategy, with emphasis placed on promoting rural and remote destinations, enriching the tourist experience while showcasing the region’s cultural and natural heritage. Notably, border tourism received a significant boost, with concerted efforts from the army and tourism authorities to facilitate safe and immersive experiences for travellers.

The summer season is the busiest in Kashmir because this is the best time to combine it with a visit to Ladakh. In the high season, hotel prices also increase. Many tourists are happy to escape the scorching heat of the southern regions, and plenty of couples arrive on honeymoon. The temperature can reach 30 degrees, but the mornings and evenings are still fresh.

This heavenly abode, nestled amidst the Himalayas, provides a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, making it an ideal destination for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty. It provides an ideal destination for a family vacation that seeks a blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and a multitude of outdoor activities. Traveling to Kashmir with family is an unforgettable experience that will create long-lasting memories for everyone involved.

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