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Kashmir tourism bleeds, Rs 1,100 cr loss in a year

Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani's killing on July 8 last year and subsequent unrest have cost Kashmir's hotel industry Rs 1,100 crore.

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Kashmir tourism bleeds, Rs 1,100 cr loss in a year
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Fida Ahmad Khan, 49, looks pensive at his Spartan office in Downtown Srinagar. For the last one year, Khan, who owns Peace Holidays Private Ltd, has been struggling to pay wages and meet daily office expenses.

In the last one year, the number of annual bookings fell to 30 from 300. Khan has suffered a loss of Rs 15 lakh this year alone. "We have become defaulters because we could not pay our loan installments to banks. We lost out on 90 per cent of bookings this year," says Khan.

Khan is not alone. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani's killing on July 8 last year and subsequent unrest have cost Kashmir's hotel industry Rs 1,100 crore.

Burhan's encounter killing sparked daily clashes between security forces and stone-pelting protesters.

The protests plunged the Valley in an unprecedented four-month spiral of violence that claimed 90-odd lives and left thousands of people wounded. Curfews, hartals, stone pelting and encounters have shaken the confidence of tourists.

"Last year we suffered losses worth Rs 500 crore. This year so far, we have lost out on Rs 600 crore. We have 54,000 beds in the Valley, and occupancy was not even 10 per cent this year. Fifty per cent of our hotels are locked.

Most employees in hotels have been retrenched. These losses pertain only to the hotel industry", says Adil Khan, vice-president of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurants Association (KHARA).

In 2017, 7.9 lakh tourists, including 2.6 lakh Amarnath Yatris, have visited Kashmir. In 2016, Kashmir had 11.27 lakh tourists, most of them came before Hizb posterboy Wani was killed by security forces.

The tourism sector suffered a loss of Rs 3,000 crore due to unrest in 2016. Around three lakh tourists had visited the Valley between July 2015 and September 2015. The footfalls of tourist however were reduced to a trickle in the corresponding period of 2016 because of the post Wani killing unrest.

"This year, arrivals have been hit. It is because of the problems we have been facing for the last one year. We have had ups and downs in the tourism sector", says Mehmood Ahmad Shah, Director of Tourism, Kashmir.

The tourism department is now planning a major publicity blitzkrieg to woo tourists back to the Valley. "We are starting an aggressive advertisement campaign, both through print and electronic media. Plus, there will be road shows, familiar tour and travel marts," says Shah.

"We have had some positive takeaways this year as a record number of Thai and Malaysian tourists arrived in the Valley", he, however, says.

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