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Houseboat, Shikara owners upbeat over tourism picking up in Kashmir

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Urge govt to formulate ‘comprehensive policy’ to keep industry intact

Srinagar: The houseboat and Shikara owners say they have been witnessing a “positive change” and “favourable economic improvements” in their business during the last few years.

Chairman, Kashmir Houseboat Owners Association (KHBOA), Manzoor Ahmad Pakthoon, said that post-Covid-19 pandemic, they are witnessing an upward trend in tourism arrivals in the Valley. People’s livelihood opportunities have increased in the sector, he added

Pakhtoon said the last few years have been “positively on the good side” as far as hosting of tourists in houseboats is concerned. However, the stay pattern is not the same as it used to be, he said, adding that the improved situation has led to an improvement in livelihood.

“The booking pattern is now for a very short phase, but the consistency in the business has made us in a position to generate more employment to offer more and better services to our clients,” he said.

President of Shikara Association, Wali Mohammad, also said that the past few years have been better than the previous times.

“There is no denial that the tourism activities have increased in the valley and it has surely had a positive impact on our work due to which our earnings have increased,” he said.

Secretary KHBOA, Abdul Rashid, however, said more needs to be done in order to ensure sustainability of their and tourism business in general. “There is a marginal improvement in livelihoods, but it can become good if the visitors stay for a longer time,” he said.

According to the KHBOA, the houseboats have scaled down from thousands to a few hundred only, while many more hundreds are offering to surrender their registrations and seeking “rehabilitation” as they cannot continue with their maintenance due to “inflation”.

According to the Shikara Association, more than 3,000 Shikaras are registered with them which are currently in service at Dal, Nageen, Manasbal, and Hazratbal. Pertinently, the J&K Tourism Department puts the number of Shikaras as over 4,000.

The tourism stakeholders are now demanding a comprehensive policy so as to keep the industry going and to pave the way for generating more employment in the valley. (With inputs from KNO)

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