Our roads are dusty; drinking water facilities are not available. There is chaos on roads due to unending traffic jams and hill resorts are muddy. Tourists repent of visiting them. When the tourists return to their hotels in evening from tourist spots in outskirts of valley, there is nothing for them to enjoy except the shores of Dal Lake. We force them to stay inside their hotel rooms after the dusk falls which is contrary to their life style.
After horticulture, the tourism is the most progressive economy of Kashmir. Despite being stagnant since last over two decades due to uncertainty and prevailing political situation of Kashmir, it has still generated over 3.5 lakh jobs directly, feeding over many more lakh people. However, its growing potential is yet to be noticed as the industry is crumbling for want of infrastructural build-up. In 2002, the government offered the industrial status to the hotel industry of Kashmir but deprived it of all benefits entitled under small scale industry status. The money of the tourism unlike other sectors like horticulture stays back in Kashmir. From roadside vendor to hotel owners, all are benefited from the tourism. In the deluge of September 2014, in which tourism in Kashmir was crushed like all other sectors , almost all the hotel owners were affected either by the floods damaging their hotels or no tourist flow for those hotels which were left unscathed in the deluge.
The central government headed by former Prime Minster, Manmohan Singh in 2002 announced the interest wavier to the hotel industry to boost the tourism sector of state and released hundreds of crores of rupees to state government. The norms were set that under the scheme for the hotel industry the hotel owners will be paying 4 per cent interest while the state government will be bearing rest 7 per cent interest under the scheme. However, after one year it was abruptly stopped by state government and forcing the hotel owners to bear all 11 per cent interest rate as their properties were mortgaged and banks threatened to seize them in case they fail to return the debt.
Talking about the infrastructural requirements and streamlining tourism sector which is unorganized, it seems the efforts of government heads nowhere close to its set target.
Our roads are dusty; drinking water facilities are not available. There is chaos on roads due to unending traffic jams and hill resorts are muddy. Tourists repent of visiting them. When the tourists return to their hotels in evening from tourist spots in outskirts of valley, there is nothing for them to enjoy except the shores of Dal Lake. We force them to stay inside their hotel rooms after the dusk falls which is contrary to their life style. Their life is planned and scheduled for everything. When they come here to spend holidays, they want to enjoy every movement of it and not to sleep or stay inside the palatial hotels for more than 10 or 12 hours every day.
The tourists who otherwise could have served our ambassadors to promote the tourism in their respective states and countries leave with bad impression. There is a mushroom growth of unregistered hotels and guest houses. Government has failed to check and stop this growing menace. On the other side unfortunately the hotels set up decades back around boulevard road, Pahalgham and Gulmarg are not allowed to be renovated due to court orders or under master plan violations. While the non-registered guest houses and hotels are making good money from the tourism, these registered hotels barred from renovation incur huge losses.
The hotel industry in Kashmir has a bed capacity of sixty thousand. If it is increased by any means, the businesses will be low as we have just two months full tourism season. During the remaining 10 months, the occupancy remains very low.
The suspension of normal traffic on Srinagar-Jammu highway is ridiculous owing to which every year we lose 3 to 4 days to tourism. Trips to Kashmir by tourists are pre planned but when the darbar move will take place nobody knows about that particular day. Due to restriction of traffic movement on the highway, large number of people cancels their bookings, by which we incur huge losses.
The campaigns in middle east and other foreign countries does not show any positive results as they are high end tourists and need extra ordinary facilities which we don’t have. But personally I believe India is a huge country with over 1.25 crore population and if state government focuses on it and attract only 10 percent of the total population, we are done.
Javed Ahmad Burza is the president of Hotels and Restaurants Association