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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Jammu

Guru's hanging kept 1.5-lakh tourists away in 2013: J&K tourism min
Peerzada Ashiq , Hindustan Times
Srinagar, January 12, 2014
First Published: 18:34 IST(12/1/2014)
Last Updated: 22:50 IST(12/1/2014)

According to state tourism minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir, the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru "dented" the tourism prospects of Kashmir last year, by keeping away more than 1.5 lakh tourists expected to visit the Valley. These included foreigners.


The year-end tourism figures for 2013 have painted a sorry picture of the sector, with only 11 lakh tourists visiting the Valley. In 2012, more than 13 people had visited the region. This, in spite of the tourism department's multi-crore promotional programmes across the country and overseas.

"We could not touch 2012's figures, and fell short by 1.5 lakh expected tourists," said Mir, attributing the dip in tourism figures to the hanging of Guru on February 9 last year.

"The hanging had an impact for a long time, but we bounced back in the later part of the year. We are hopeful of a booming tourism season this year," said Mir, who said he was working on a mega-plan for the promotion of virgin tourist destinations.

Guru's hanging crippled life in the Valley for almost two months due to street protests, curfews by local administrations and separatist-backed shutdown.

The execution also killed the Valley's golfing season, which starts in May. However, due to Guru's hanging and the disturbance that followed, many prominent golfers failed to keep their date with the destination.
"Guru's hanging impacted footfall for nearly five months," said Nuzhat Jan, secretary of Srinagar's Royal Springs Golf Course.

Foreign tourists travelling to Kashmir region dropped from nearly 35,000 in 2012 to only 28,000 in 2013.
However, foreigners were not kept away only by Guru's hanging.

"The number of foreigners visiting Ladakh region has decreased due to the media hype surrounding border issues with China," the minister said.

Tourism is among the key sectors of the state's economy and provides employment to a large number of people.


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