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Valley readies for another blockbuster tourist season

 

HAROON RESHI | Srinagar, April 3, 2012 16:19
Tags : Maqbool | Macs Place in Srinagar | blockbuster tourist season | militancy | Jammu and Kashmir | normalcy in Valley |
 
Valley readies for another blockbuster tourist seasonMaqbool, the owner of the only island restaurant (Mac’s Place) in Srinagar’s renowned Nigeen Lake, is gearing up for a great tourist season in the coming months.

“I hope this (2012) will be a profitable season for me. And my business will flourish in the coming summer, Inshallah (God willing),” he told TSI. He had left his birthplace and his business behind in the mid 90’s when the militancy had peaked. However, he returned after more than a decade from Thailand where he had started selling Kashmir art goods during the exile period.

Maqbool came home in 2010 after militancy petered out. He renovated his restaurant and had a good money-making season in the 2011. And now he is looking for better days ahead.

Maqbool’s dream of making it big this season is turning out to be a reality as tourists have already started landing in the Valley from across the country. The increase in tourists' footfall has galvanised people that finally peace has returned to the embattled Valley after two decades of bloodshed.

Muhammad Azim Tuman, president of Houseboat Owners' Association, said: "It has been after more than twenty years that tourists have started coming even in March and the trend clearly indicates that coming months will be full of guests."

Tuman has two big houseboats floating on the waters of the world-famous Dal Lake.

After having three constant summers of unrest and violence (2008-2010), the picturesque Kashmir saw the best ever tourist season in 2011, with the arrival of more than 13 lakh visitors including about 32 thousand foreigners. This is a record highest number in the tourism history of Kashmir.

Besides tourists, 10 million Hindu pilgrims visited the shrines of Shri Mata Vishno Devi (at Jammu) and Shri Amarnath Ji (Valley) in 2011, according to officials.

In 1989, the year when militancy had surfaced in the Valeey, some 7 lakh visitors had visited the state and it was a record in those days. Over a period of time, the tourist influx decreased to pick up in 2011. Before tourism boom in 2011, the Kashmir Valley was rocked with violence in 2010. More than 120 people, mostly youngster, were killed by police and paramilitary troopers in few months of time.

But with the visible improvement in the security situation, the government has continued to start removing more security bunkers in the residential and tourist destination.

The state tourist minister Nawang Rigzin Jora said: "Peace during the last year has given fresh impetus to tourism activities in the state, be it leisure or adventure tourism in the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh." While speaking in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, he said the state government with the collaboration of the Centre is drawing future plans to boost tourism sector in the state.

The news reports that noted director Yash Chopra is coming along with Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan and Katrina Kaif to Kashmir in coming season for his film has also raised expectations of a blooming season.

“Such activities will definitely draw a magnificent impact on the growing tourism sector in the Valley. It seems that the dark days have really passed away. I am thrilled by the developing situation,” says Maqbool. Others too are happy as the Valley is only place in the country where more than 60 per cent of the people directly or indirectly relies on the tourism industry for their livelihood.

On Monday the CRPF removed one of the oldest security bunkers from a downtown locality in the Srinagar city. It was established in the early 90’s when militancy had broke out in the Valley.

More than 40 security bunkers have been removed from the different areas of the capital city since the three-member panel of interlocutors had recommended for it in 2010. Chief Minister Omer Abdullah recently informed the state assembly that his government has identified another 15 bunkers to be removed.

Now when tourists have started landing in the Valley, the authorities on Monday reopened the Srinagar-Sonamarg road that connects one of the beautiful tourist destinations, Sonamarg was closed down for the past three months due to the heavy snowfall. All preparations are on to attract more tourists and made this season a more vibrant one.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017