As government of India eased Covid restrictions across the country making the travel easier, Kashmir valley is witnessing an exponential increase in the tourism flow as the valley’s international airport recorded a footfall of more than four lakh visitors in the month of April .
According to the officials, the month of April recorded a footfall of around 4,13,198 visitors at Srinagar International Airport with 2909 flight movements recorded in the month.
Aakruti from Nasik Maharashtra who for the first time, along with her family, planned trip to the valley said that the moment of being in valley is most memorable for her
“During my ongoing stay in the valley I visited various tourist destinations, and with each destination I feel that maximum remains unexplored”, she said.
Aakar from Maharashtra while speaking to the Rising Kashmir said that he would not like to go back to the normal course of work back at home.
“Surely I carry a good experience of being in the valley along with my family but going back to my normal work routine back at my home place is something I would not like, as I want to spend more time here”, he said.
According to the hoteliers club, the hotels in the valley are witnessing regular bookings while the travel trade bodies say that till June the properties stand sold out.
“We are aiming to witness Kashmir as a four season destination, and people around the world should not confine it to summers or winters only”, said a member of J&K hotelier club.
Officials in the tourism department state that the year 2021 recorded 665814 visitor footfall in the valley while the year end in the month of December it recorded 1,43057 tourist arrivals.
According to the official data reviewed by the Rising Kashmir the year 2022 starter showed upward trends in tourist footfall in the valley. As per the official figures month of January recorded 61,000 visitors, followed by the month of February which recorded 1.05 lakh, month of March recorded 1.80 lakh visitors and the month of April recorded arrival of 2.60 lakh tourists, which is being highest so far in the month.
The stakeholders associated with the tourism industry in the valley said that they have pinned their hopes to witness a 12 month long tourism season this year after facing unexpected losses over the past few years.
The early summers in the valley and rising temperature across the country has also led the people to spend their vacations in the valley.
Pertinent to mention that for the first time, the Ministry of Civil Aviation approved the five (5) flights a week between Srinagar-Sharjah.
According to a communique by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, government of India, it has allocated M/s Go Air India Ltd. the traffic rights to operate on Srinagar-Sharjah route.
Notably the flight operations between Srinagar- Sharjah were operating under air bubble arrangement that was in place till March 26, 2022 after which all air bubble arrangements were cancelled when India resumed scheduled international passenger flights on March 27, 2022.
Scheduled international passenger flights operate under bilateral air services agreement which is signed between the two countries, however in absence of requisite bilateral rights for operating scheduled flights, Go First stopped operating Srinagar-Sharjah-Srinagar flight from March 27.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah had inaugurated Go First's Srinagar-Sharjah flight on October 23 last year, connecting Jammu and Kashmir with the United Arab Emirates after around 11 years.
Meanwhile tourism department in order to ensure the compliance towards the announced tariffs on the various tourism services, Tourism department Kashmir constituted a Central Monitoring team and a destination team, responsible to conduct random checking at various destinations including Dal and Nigeen Lake.
In an order issued by the tourism department Kashmir, it has constituted a central committee, composed of Deputy Director Tourism Registration, Deputy Director Tourism Kashmir, Deputy Director Tourism Enforcement and Assistant director tourism recreation/events. While the destination team comprises assistant director tourism concerned, assistant tourism officer concerned, representative of concerned Tourism Dev. Authority and Incharge Tourist Police of the resort.
“It is further ordered that the central team shall be responsible to conduct random checking at various destinations including Dal and Nigeen Lakes in order to cross check whether the service providers follow the rates fixed for various services and SOPs notified from time to time are followed”, reads the order.
The Department of Tourism has also advised all tourism service providers to desist from any sort of cheating or overcharging from the tourists. The Department has made it amply clear that relevant provisions of J&K Registration of Tourist Trade Act-1978/2012 and other penal laws would be invoked in case of deviant stakeholders.
According to a spokesman of the Department, it was incumbent upon the stakeholders and the Department to ensure that tourists are attended decently, properly and charged fairly for the services they utilize so that they return back with memories as beautiful as Kashmir is known for.
In another significant development last month, Srinagar International Airport recorded 102 flight movements in a single day. Notably over the past few years, Srinagar International Airport also started the night flight services, International Cargo services and direct international flights to Sharjah.
Last month an international cargo terminal facility at the Srinagar International Airport was also inaugurated in order to provide a thrust to exports.
Commissioner Secretary Tourism Sarmad Hafeez while speaking to Rising Kashmir said that the tourism department this season in the UT is hosting a series of summer festivals of which tourism festivals and events have already kick started in Jammu.
“We are also planning to re-host a mega houseboat festival this season. After we started it last year, the houseboats which ideally used to get less flow of tourists on year end are now booked and occupied throughout”, Hafeez said.
In a response to the question of exploring more 75 untapped tourist destinations in the valley, he said that the government is focusing more on these destinations to give them a new facelift with more facilities for visitors.
“We are planning to host a grand bird watching festival this month. We are trying to invite the bird watchers from outside, along with that we are focusing on adventure tourism in UT. In Jammu we have already started paragliding and to start that in the valley recce is under process”, Hafeez added.
The tourism department in Jammu and Kashmir over the past couple of years after being allocated a whopping budget held a series of programmes, events across the country in a bid to attract the tourists in the valley.
Hafeez said that the tourism department is also mulling to set up tented colonies at various tourist destinations which are ecologically fragile.
“We are working very strongly towards heritage tourism, after starting the heritage city tour, we are aiming to start destination tours to Gulmarg, Pahalgam and various other destinations for which modalities are being finalized”, he said.