Revival of tourism
Tourism, one of the important components of Kashmir’s economy, is struggling for a comeback. As the Covid-19 has impacted every sphere of life in Kashmir like rest of the world, this sector too was hard hit in Kashmir. Tourists had already abandoned Kashmir following the lockdown post August 2019 and Covid-19 spread added to the crisis. The crisis shattered Kashmir economy and all the sections of the society affiliated with tourism sector, directly or indirectly, suffered huge losses. Houseboat owners, shikara pullers, pony wallas, sledge pullers, tourist guides all suffered terribly. Some people had invested huge amounts of money in hospitality sector and established hotels in Srinagar and all the prominent tourist resorts. They had raised huge loans from financial institutions for the constructions and due to absence of any cliental have suffered huge losses. Some of them have turned NPAs and the constant nagging by their respective financial institutions has become economical as well as psychological nightmare for them. Transporters too have suffered hugely so have those who deal in handicrafts and handlooms as the tourists visiting Kashmir were their potential clients and as their foot-fall was reduced to zero, their investments failed to help them get desired results.
However, there has been some light at the end of the tunnel and Kashmir is slightly again emerging on the tourism map of the country. From December last year, tourists, who stayed away from this place for nearly one and a half year, have started visiting Kashmir. Gulmarg and Pahalgam have witnessed good flow of tourists during these months and the winter sports initiatives too have attracted the domestic tourists. With most of the international flights still grounded and Covid-19 restrictions in several countries, though there are no foreign tourists but domestic tourists have been visiting in good number. The flow has rekindled the hope of those affiliated with the tourism sector be those houseboat owners, shikara-pullers, hoteliers, pony-wallas, tourist guides or those doing trade in Kashmiri handicrafts. The tourism department too have started some initiatives of show-casing Kashmir to the potential tourists of different states and Union Territories. This tempo is to be kept on and the UT administration needs to take all the steps that would attract more and more tourists here. The administration should approach all the state governments and in coordination with union tourism ministry should try to convince them that Kashmir is fully geared up to host the tourists.
That said, the administration should also step in and come up with some package to help those affiliated with the tourism sector. It should ask the banks and other financial institutions to understand the gravity of the situation that forced some of the tourism players to turn into NPA. Secondly, for smaller tourism players, who too have suffered badly, the administration should initiate a process of granting some soft loans so that they can start their businesses a fresh. The revival of tourism with not only boost the economy of Kashmir but will always help to create an atmosphere of positivity for which the administration is striving for.