Gulmarg, Feb 14: The inauguration of ski rescue base and a ski heli port at Gulmarg has not come at a good time and Kashmir tourism sector has seen cancellation of up to 40 percent in the last two weeks. The Jammu and Kashmir government had spent Rs 1.70 crore to construct the ski lift which opened this month. It has a length of 450 meters, with a passenger capacity of 720 skiers per hour but the last weeek's curfew and continued uncertainty has taken toll of the tourism.
The tourism industry in the state was expecting a great start this year after two very happy years but that doesn't seem to be happening. Jammu and Kashmir tourism department officials said the tension on the LoC after the killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops and Afzal Guru's hanging has cast shadow over this year.
Normally individual travellers (not part of guided tours) come during the month of February, however, the situation is grim with 40 percent cancellations.
Even the advisory by western countries like Britain, USA and Australia to their citizens on the curfew-bound Valley has kept the foreign tourists away. The state had seen a record 13.5 lakh tourists last year and of them 37,000 were foreigners.
If the protests continue the local tourism industry is fearing that a regular quota of government employees on tour packages and honeymoon couples expected from March may also decline.
The government has been adding adventure attractions for tourists at various destinations in the state as two years of relative peace had seen a healthy growth of tourism sector. The Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation itself saw a revenue Rs. 16.35 crore up to December 2012 recording 6 per cent increase to corresponding period.
There is social benefit of booming tourism. It keeps youth busy and away from militancy. Because of these factors both the administrators and tour operators hope to see tourists return to the Kashmir.
Tourists enjoy a trip aboard the typical shikara boats
Tourists enjoy a trip aboard the typical shikara boats on World Famous Dal Lake in Srinagar after a relaxation of the curfew on Wednesday.
A tourist couple posses for a photograph
A tourist couple posses for a photograph tas they enjoy on World Famous Dal Lake in Srinagar after a relaxation of curfew on Wednesday.
Shikara owners, on the banks of Dal Lake
Shikara owners, on the banks of Dal Lake, with no business for the fourth consecutive day due to curfew imposed in the Kashmir valley, following the execution of the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, in Srinagar on Tuesday.
A fisherman casts his net at the Dal Lake
A fisherman casts his net at the Dal Lake during a rainy day in Srinagar on Monday.
A flock of Ducks traped in the frozen waters of Dal Lake
A flock of Ducks traped in the frozen waters of Dal Lake in Srinagar. The minimum temperature in Srinagar was -4.8 degrees Celsius, on Sunday.
Policemen recover a vehicle
Policemen recover a vehicle that fell into the Dal Lake in Srinagar, on Sunday.
Houseboats seen at the frozen Dal Lake
Houseboats seen at the frozen Dal Lake in Srinagar on Saturday.
A Boatman breaking the frozen waters of Dal Lake
A Boatman breaking the frozen waters of Dal Lake as he tries to make way for his boat in Srinagar. The minimum temperature in Srinagar was -4.8 degrees Celsius, on Sunday.
A boatman rows his boat in Dal Lake
A boatman rows his boat in Dal Lake after a moderate snowfall in Srinagar on Saturday.
Reflection of a snow covered picturesque mountain
Reflection of a snow covered picturesque mountain on the waters of Dal Lake after recent snowfall, in Srinagar on Sunday.