Coronavirus decimates tourism industry in Kashmir
Srinagar: Tourism industry in Kashmir valley is staring at a rough phase this year as advance bookings and queries have decreased significantly due to corona virus scare.
Tourism operators in Kashmir valley have kept fingers crossed expecting this scare to ward off in March itself, so that they could expect better tourist arrivals in late summer and autumn season.
The bookings from South-East Asian and European countries, which was a regular feature in March every year, have been either cancelled, put on a halt or there hasn’t been any query from these countries at all.
“Bookings and queries have significantly decreased. Corona virus scare is going to impact the tourist arrival here. Saving one’s life is always a priority than travelling to an exotic place,” said a member of Hotelier Association Kashmir.
Kashmir is a famous international tourist destination, attracting large number of visitors especially interested in mountain expeditions and longer solitary stays.
In 2019 also, there was dip in tourist arrivals in Kashmir due to continuous clampdown for six months, following abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of state into two Union Territories.
“We recently held meetings to attract more tourists and create avenues for tourism, but this health scare has created a hurdle right in the beginning,” said a hotel owner, who expected early arrival a summer as COVID-19 virus doesn’t survive in high temperature.
“We hope there is some clarity about this virus scare by end of this month, otherwise it is bad signal for us, as it will ruin the tourism season for the whole year. We already have very limited period of tourism activity here,” said another member of Kashmir Tour Operators Association.
Tourists also throng to Ladakh region. The mountainous region of Ladakh remains cutoff for almost six months as its two main connecting roads—434-km Srinagar-Leh and 490km Manali-Leh is blocked due to heavy snowfall. The tourists arrive here between April and October.
“Our tourist season is also impacted by the late opening of highways, which only adds to our problem. Corona Virus health issue has further aggravated our problems,” said a Kashmir based restaurant owner in Leh.
On Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration barred foreign tourists from entering the Union Territory as a precautionary measure in view of coronavirus outbreak.
“Advisor to the Lt. Governor Baseer Ahmad Khan has issued necessary orders in this regard. Secretary Tourism, Director Tourism and DCs have been asked to ensure implementation of the order with immediate effect,” an official spokesman said.
This means that foreign tourists will not be allowed to come to Kashmir. Hundreds of hotels and restaurants have also closed due to coronavirus scare.
Meanwhile, two more people on Wednesday were tested positive for coronavirus in Ladakh, taking the cases of the deadly virus in the Union Territory to eight.
Talking to media persons, Rigzin Sampheal, Commissioner Secretary of Ladakh said: “We have received the result of 34 reports of which two people have tested positive for coronavirus. These persons are the relatives of people who were previously reported positive and were kept under quarantine in heart foundation.”
Adding both the persons has been transferred in the isolation ward.
Among the eight who tested positive for coronavirus, one is an army soldier, the official said. (KNT)