The state government’s uphill task this year is to launch a battle not against raging militancy but rising waters to woo tourists after facing unprecedented cancellations in the wake of flood threats.
Elaborate arrangements are being made to dispel the fears among tourists that the valley’s favourite destinations were affected due to the flood threat, which subsided on Friday with sunny afternoon.
“We are planning to conduct road shows across the country to break the myths post-2014 floods about the state. Kashmir remains an affordable and safe destination,” said Farooq Shah, managing director of the state Tourist Development Corporation (TDC).
These road shows will be organised in metropolitan cities of Delhi, Bangalore and West Bengal etc.
In fact, education minister Naeem Akhtar flagged off double-decker topless bus service ‘On Wheels’, first of its kind, on the banks of the Dal lake on Thursday, to attract already staying tourists.
The bus was flagged off amid receding water levels both in the lake as well as nearby Jhelum river, which flow below the alert level.
“Our sightseeing plan was not disturbed due to the rains. For a day it was scary, but as weather improved it is quite normal,” said Ravi Banerjee, a tourist from the West Bengal.
Buoyed by increasing footfall in the last one decade with ebbing of militant violence, the government plans to put the older parts of the city on the tourism map this year.
“So many houses and buildings in the Srinagar downtown are old designs. It will be an amazing experience for tourists to avail the bus service and travel around the city,” said Akhtar.
Kashmir witnessed a major slump in the tourism sector last year due to devastating floods. It received another jolt recently when flood scare due to incessant rains saw cancellation by tourists.
“There were massive cancellations in bookings till April 20,” said Hoteliers’ Club chairman Mushtaq Ahmad.
Most hotels faced around 60 percent cancellation because of lurking fears of floods, which did not happen due to improvement of weather.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who is also opposition National Conference’s working president, took to the social networking site Twitter to assure prospective tourists.
“The worst of the water logging is behind us and the fear of floods has been dispelled by the government. Please come visit Kashmir in the spring,” Abdullah wrote on Twitter.
“The tulips will soon be in bloom & the valley is the most gorgeous green, Gulmarg still has snow & the Lidder is roaring in Pahalgam... Everyone here is waiting to welcome you,” he added.
Kashmir valley hosted only 11 lakh tourists last year after floods hit the autumn and winter season badly. It was expecting to cross 20 lakh mark.
"Most tourist destinations in India like Goa, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh host around 1 crore tourists every year. So we are lagging behind by a huge margin," said TDC MD Shah.