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HindustanTimes Tue,29 Jul 2014

Looking for 'cold comfort', tourists flock to Kashmir

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, December 01, 2012
First Published: 23:15 IST(1/12/2012) | Last Updated: 23:17 IST(1/12/2012)

Taking a quiet stroll on the banks of Dal Lake are Madhur Misra and his wife Manju Misra, a middle-aged couple from Chandigarh who are in Kashmir on their "second honeymoon". Draped in heavy woollens, the Misras don't seem to mind the November chill.

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The last time they were here was 20 years ago and decided to relive their memories this autumn. "We are enjoying the breath-taking beauty of this place, which is more beautiful in the hues of red and brown. I fail to imagine how there could have been trouble in a place like this," Madhur said.

The Misras are among more than 13 lakh tourists to have visited Kashmir so far this year and more are expected. This is a huge jump from about 6 lakh in 2010 when the valley was in turmoil in the second half of the year and received no tourists.

After an unprecedented rush of tourists in summer, the Kashmir Valley is still receiving tourists in large numbers and the famed tourist spots are buzzing with activity.

The buzz can be heard everywhere in Kashmir -- from government officials congratulating each other over Britain lifting its advisory against tourism to the shawl sellers, handicraft workers and even dhabawalas, who have come from distant places in the country to set up shop in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.

"We had a booming business this year. During the peak season in summer, people had to wait for hours to book a table. Thankfully, business is still very good in winter also," said Prakash who hails from Bihar and runs a dhaba in Srinagar.

"We used to go back to our native place in late October. But this year we are still working," he added. "We have a lot of booking for year end. People want to spend the New Year in the Valley," said Nazir Bakshi, owner of Shiraz Travels one of the leading tour companies in the Valley.

"We are expecting at least a 10% increase next year," said J&K tourism director Talat Pervez. Besides improving infrastructure, the state government plans to make sure tourists have a good nightlife as well.

"Tourists used to complain that there is nothing to do in the evenings. We are focusing on evening cruises along the Jhelum and Dal Lake which will also include light and sound shows. There is much more in the offing," Pervez adds.


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