Kashmir tourism getting back to normal

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Srinagar, July 16 (ANI): Tourists and nature lovers have begun to visit Jammu and Kashmir since normalcy has begun to prevail after a spate of recent unrest and violence in some parts of the Kashmir valley.

Once a favoured holiday destination, Kashmir tourism suffered a major setback due to re-occurrence of violence in the state.

Tourists had to either cancel or postpone their trips in the wake of unrest over the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian and then off and on Bandh calls and political protests related to it.

But now with the peaceful environment returning in the valley, tourists have started thronging the State.

"We were supposed to come here in June but postponed our visit due to the problem out here. And now it's very safe and really beautiful. We would love to come back here," said Suresh, a tourist.

Meanwhile, the number of Hindu devotees undertaking the annual pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath has also risen, boosting the Kashmir tourism sector.

Tourists say that after coming to Kashmir, they found that it is as safe as any other place in the world.

"The shutdown and other problems hamper tourism a bit and even people hesitate to make a visit but after coming here we realised that things are different and we are feeling really good," said Mahesh, another tourist.

Azim Tuman, president, House Boat Owners Association, Srinagar, said that due to the recent state elections and the Shopian episode, the number of tourists fell sharply.

However, with situation having improved, tourism has started picking up.

"Kashmir tourism suffered a setback during the state elections and due to the recent Shopian episode. However, now tourism has started picking up fast," said Azim Tuman, President of the House Boat Owners Association in Srinagar.

Kashmir has been among the top Asian tourism destinations, particularly for the honeymoon couples, holidaying crowd, nature lovers, skiers and trekkers.

According to official figures, 430,000 tourists including 23,000 foreigners visited Kashmir in 2008. By Parvez Bhatt(ANI)

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