Bad omen for tourism
The spring season is almost heading to an end in Kashmir and summer is approaching fast with the day time temperatures also touching nearly 27 Degrees Celsius. However, tourism activity is not picking up to the expectations that the industry in particular and the people in general have.
This year we have had to witness severe winter conditions in the state and Kashmir Valley was the worst hit. The Valley experienced heavy snowfall and despite that a negligible activity on the tourism front was experienced. Though winter tourism is considered as a major contributor to the tourism trade, the footfall during winters was dismal.
The increased downpour this year meant delayed opening of various tourism resorts and Leh and Sonamarg destinations are still off the tourism map. The heavy snowfall has meant that the Srinagar-Leh highway may not be opened for few more weeks and even the famed Sonamarg tourism spot will not be able to attract tourists and visitors for some more time.
The road to Sonamarg was opened few days back but the area is still covered under a thick blanket of snow with least facilities being restored so that the hotels and other essential services could have functioned.
The absence of electricity, water and other basic facilities at this famed tourist resort which was opened for the public after four months of winter closure, has irked the visitors and the local business community alike.
The area has not witnessed restoration of basic facilities and there is no connectivity like telephone or internet that the visitors could avail. This has led to losses for the local hotel industry as no visitors are staying put at the famed resort. Even the district administration is not allowing any tourist for night stay at Sonamarg till the electricity and other facilities are restored.
The administration was caught off the guard as no measures were taken to put systems in place as the area witnessed tourism activity for a few months only owing to the early onset of winter in this region.
The other major setback is the delay in opening of the Srinagar-Leh road which is still covered under a thick and voluminous blanket of snow. Though the officials took stock of the road condition from Sonamarg towards Drass and also inspected the widening and repairing works being undertaken by the Border Roads Organisation to facilitate traffic movement in Zojilla area as early as possible, but given the situation on ground it seems that the road opening may take some more time.
Tourism is an all important activity for the Jammu and Kashmir state and the way this core sector is handled raises many questions as well as eyebrows.
Sonamarg witnesses a heavy snowfall every year but almost every year the officials too are caught with no plans to reconnect this place to the golden triangle of Gulmarg-Pahalgam and Sonamarg sector, which is the prized attraction for tourism in Kashmir.