Due to the Covid-19 pandemic many restrictions have been imposed for traveling abroad thus increasing the tourist footfall in Kashmir. Though tourism industry has suffered a lot during the tough times of pandemic but the things are changing for Kashmir now. The valley has emerged as the most sought after destination in 2021 for premium domestic tourists. This has resulted in the boom for hotels and tourism related stakeholders in the valley.
Tourists are returning to the valleys and mountains in Kashmir after the Covid-19 cases declined.
Talking about official figures from J&K Tourism department, during the July-August period around 1 lakh tourists visited Kashmir valley destinations such as Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg. Around 76,880 tourists visited in the winter season, between January and March 2021.
Sarmad Hafeez, Tourism Secretary, J&K said that after the second wave of pandemic the tourism sector has been able to recovery in Kashmir. Adding further he said that tourists were not able to go abroad, especially Europe, so what better destination than Kashmir! He further said that they have received around 1 lakh tourists in July-August and are expecting more tourists in near future.
Further Hafeez informed that over 90% of tourism stakeholders such as shikara (boat) and pony owners, and caterers have been vaccinated. Further Hafeez said that due to increase in connectivity such as direct flights from different cities has helped in increase in tourist footfall.
Farooq Khutoo, president of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir said that most high-end hotels have above 70% occupancy, unlike budget hotels where occupancy is on the lower side and may be there could be a major fall in travellers once overseas flights restart.
Due to premium tourists golfing landscape is also changing in Kashmir, with 527 non-local golfers playing in tournaments in July-August, against just 35 for the same period last year, reportedly.
Also there has been rise in tourists in Meghalaya, the second northeastern State after Sikkim to open for tourists. “Lower-end and budget tourists have perhaps not recovered from the economic impact of COVID-19 lockdowns or restrictions, while the higher-end tourists have been raring to break free of home confinement,” said Parambir Singh Sehdave, president of the Federation of Shillong Hotels.