Ever since Srinagar's famous gardens reopened last month, tourist arrivals have seen a sharp rise in picturesque Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
According to J&K tourism officials, March 2022 broke the 10-year tourist arrival record in Kashmir, signalling that Kashmir’s tourism industry is finally on the path to recovery.
Director Tourism Kashmir G.N. Itoo said that the department has started promoting all the seasons in Kashmir. Itoo added that this is the first time that spring season is being promoted in Kashmir.
Data show that 1,62,664 domestic travellers and 490 foreigners visited the Kashmir Valley in January and February. During the first three months of 2022, more than 3 lakh tourists arrived in Kashmir to enjoy the snow in Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam followed by the spring tourism around Srinagar’s Dal Lake. Officials add that Kashmir's Tulip Garden at the foothills of the Zabarwan range in Srinagar had received 2 lakh visitors within 10 days of opening for the season.
According to the Union tourism ministry, 1.42 lakh tourists had visited J&K during February alone, breaking the seven-year record.
Currently 80-90 percent high-end hotels are occupied in Srinagar, said Abdul Wahid Malik, President, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Owners Federation.
Amid the tourist influx, the Srinagar International Airport has registered record flight operations. For example, on March 28, Srinagar airport operated 90 incoming and outgoing flights which ferried more than 15,014 visitors, the most so far in the airport's history.
Director, Srinagar Airport, Kuldeep Singh told Moneycontrol: “We had record-breaking 45 arriving flights with 7,824 passengers and 45 departing flights with 7,190 passengers on March 28. A total of 90 flights with 15,014 passengers makes it the busiest day in the airport's history.”
The tourism sector in Kashmir was hit due to lockdowns - after the Centre revoked Article 370 conferring special status on J&K on August 5, 2019, and during the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020.
Following resumption of regular international flights in India last month, the travel and trade stakeholders in J&K are hopeful that footfall of foreigner tourists will significantly pick up in days to come.Secretary, Tourism and Culture, Sarmad Hafeez, told Moneycontrol that since the J&K government has taken tourism as a priority, advertising campaigns have been launched across India to encourage tourists to come to Kashmir. “The government has identified 75 lesser-known destinations across J&K which are having potential to become top tourist places.”