Gulmarg gondola accident comes at a bad time for Kashmir tourism
The Kashmir Valley has been torn by violence in the past year following the gunning down of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July 2016. Civilian protests and clashes with security officers led to nearly 100 deaths and hundreds more being injured.india Updated: Jun 29, 2017 12:17 IST
The accident at the Gulmarg gondola on Sunday evening that killed seven people comes at a time when Kashmir's tourism industry suffersadwindlingof tourists due to the continued anti-India protests, militancy and counter-insurgency operations.
When bad weather struck the cable car service in the famed hill-resort, a tree fell on the cable and led toat least twocars gettingknocked against the hillside, killing a Delhi-based couple and their two young daughters and three Kashmiris.
"For the industry, this unfortunate accident could not have come at a worst time," director of the state tourism department,Mahmood Ahmad Shah, told HThighlighting how the sector was already suffers due to the prevailing situation in the state.
Official data indicate that the total number of tourists who visited the Valley since January 2016 to the first week of July, when unrest broke in Kashmir after the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen militant Burhan Wani, was around 6.2 lakh (including Amarnath yatris).
But the later part of the year – as Kashmir remained under curfew for five-months and over 90 civilians were killed in protests –registered almost zero tourists, leading to a revenue loss of 80%.
The department hasn't officially released any data for tourist visiting the Valley this year, but informed sources revealed the number was dismal – aover 60% decline when figures of tourists visiting Kashmir inJanuary-June is compared against those whovisited in the corresponding period last year.
"People across the country and even abroad onlyhear the Kashmir is gripped by violence. In spite of that they plan their visits. Now if such things happen, then perhaps they will think twice before choosing to visit the Valley," said a cab-driver who regularly ferries tourists from Srinagar to Gulmarg.
But it's not that Gulmarg has shutdown after the accident."Gulmarg is normal," said Shah.
Sources in the travel and hotel industry say that tourists have not packed up and left after the accident last evening. "It's normal, just that people won't be able to avail the gondola ride now. We hear it's shut for a few days," said a tour agent in Gulmarg.
Officials had told HT that the gondola services are expected to remain shut for some days and an expert team from France is scheduled to visit and conduct checks and maintenance work.