SRINAGAR, June 1: Kashmir is having an unprecedented rush of tourists from across the country and abroad this season. But loopholes in government policies are marring chances for the valley to compete with other tourist destinations of India, hoteliers complain.
“If Kashmir is to become a tourist state in the real sense, we have to develop a strategy so that the period of stay of tourists is prolonged. They come for only 3-4 days and leave. We have to make them stay for 10 days at least,” President of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA), Showkat Chowdhary, said.
Nearly two million tourists are expected to visit the valley this year and a huge rush has already poured in. The government recently launched a campaign to publicise new tourist areas like the Bungus valley in frontier district of Kupwara, but Gulmarg and Pahalgam continue to remain the favourite destinations besides the capital Srinagar which has the famous Mughal Gardens and the Dal Lake.
“That is because there is no infrastructure for the people to spend their time there. There should be hotels and food points so that they can stay there for a few days,” Chowdhary said, adding, “We want the government to earmark new areas in places like Yousmarg and Dodpathri for building hotels and other infrastructure.”
On the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the government has prohibited new constructions in ecologically sensitive areas given the disastrous effects that concrete constructions have had on the environment. But apart from preventing any new hotels from being built, hoteliers say, the policy is proving detrimental to the already existing infrastructure.
“The order is being highly misinterpreted, it doesn’t say that we cannot repair rooms and other facilities in hotels that were already built,” Chowdhary said. “What has happened is that a hotel in Pahalgam or at the Dal’s boulevard which had forty rooms earlier now has only 30 left to offer to guests. This is because they cannot repair them due to the policy.”
Besides ratification of new areas for infrastructure development, the hoteliers have also demanded that a hassle-free system be put in place for encouraging private investment in the tourism sector.
“We want the government to develop a tourism policy for paying incentive to entrepreneurs who are willing to invest in the development of new infrastructure in the state. Also there is also need for a single window system for issuing No Objection Certificates to new hoteliers. The policy is not clear otherwise a lot of people want to invest in tourism,” Dr. Abdul Majeed, Senior Vice President of KHRA, said.