Srinagar, June 26: The tourism industry in Kashmir has come to an almost complete standstill affecting the livelihood of a sizeable section of population. Houseboats are empty, taxi drivers and shikara owners are whiling away time with no business on the horizon.
The tourism sector in Kashmir is going through its worst crisis with many hotels closing down, staff being laid off and players in the industry looking for alternative businesses or even job opportunities. Businesses linked with tourism, including handicrafts, restaurants and transporters, are also facing a financial crisis. People, who are associated with tourism, are facing difficulties to feed their families.
The atmosphere of panic has been created by TV channels who are portraying Kashmir in negative manner. The electronic media’s coverage of the developments were damaging the tourism industry. The continuous negative coverage, especially of violence, which is not the overwhelming reality in Kashmir, has stalled tourist inflow to Kashmir.
The electronic media is not projecting the good things about Kashmir. Only yesterday a taxi driver has reportedly returned a bag containing cash and ornaments worth Rs 10 lakh to a tourist family, who had lost it in Aharbal, Kulgam. Kashmiris are hospitable people, who take good care of tourists always.
The J&K government, which is spending huge money to advertise Kashmir and trying to get it back on the regional and global tourist map, has not managed any notable success. 2014 floods and 2016 unrest, had already given a blow to the tourism industry in Kashmir and then continuous negative portrayal is damaging it further.
People associated with tourism industry have taken loans from different financial institutions and are paying huge interests on it. Many Shikara owners are now selling vegetables, while travel agents have shut their offices to save rent and are looking for other careers. They operate from home to entertain a rare booking. It is duty of the government to come to the rescue of these people as they are facing the crisis.