Friday, January 20, 2012

Lack of infrastructure for Winter Tourism

The heavy snowfall that cut-off Kashmir valley from rest of the world by snapping all its road and air links, and left everyone fighting for survival in absence of essentials including heating aides is raising serious doubts about the Jammu and Kashmir government’s ability to host tourists in winter.And by the look of the things the doubt seems quite well placed.

At a time considered peak of winter tourism in Kashmir, the lack of facilities, more than the harsh winter, is forcing away the tourists present in the valley while those likely to visit in the forthcoming weeks have already cancelled the trips.
The situation is creating an impression that the state may not be ready for winter tourism, besides threatening to keep away the tourists in the coming years.

“We have been successfully marketing all seasons in the previous years, but it seems we are not yet ready to sell the winter season,” the president Tour Agents Association of Kashmir, Rauf Tramboo, told JK news.

“The roads here are blocked; the flights are not operating and now the prices of air-tickets are sky-rocketing; and we did not even have electricity and gas supplies. All this is resulting in majority of groups and families cancelling trips to the valley. It has sent a bad signal outside,” he said.

The heavy snowfall left tourists stranded due to valley’s blocked connectivity with the outside world.  The resulting shortage of electricity, cooking gas, essential supplies, however, made the matters worse.   

If the president Houseboat Owners Association, Azim Tuman, is to be believed, the occupancy in the houseboats has come down to zero for the tourists have rushed out due to lack of essential supplies and basic amenities.

“I saw a tourist who was crying literally. He was left without electricity, gas and other essential supplies, and was forced to live on potato and onions. Added to this, the air tickets were so expensive that he could not afford to move out,” shared Tuman, “Naturally under such circumstances, the tourists are running away, leaving the houseboats empty.”For the similar reasons, the occupancy in the hotels is down to 25 to 30 per cent.

“When electricity was not available, we required firewood and kerosene to keep the tourists warm, but it was not available. It has sent a wrong signal outside and it proves that we lack infrastructure for winter tourism,” Siraj said.

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