Thursday, April 22, 2021

Kashmiri Businesses Suffer Heavy Losses As Weather, Restrictions Play Spoilsport

Kashmir has seen challenging times after the revocation of Article 370 from the region. With continued restrictions and communication blockade coupled with foggy conditions and cold weather, the number of people visiting the beautiful region has dipped dramatically.

32,000 domestic tourists visited the Kashmir Valley between August and November in 2019 from the 2.49 lakh in the same period – a dip of a whopping 87 percent according to The Times of India.

According to the TOI report, November was the best month for Kashmir, with 10,946 domestic tourists and 1,140 foreign tourists visiting the now-minted Union Territory (UT). That is more than double the footfall in September, according to the report.

According to the report, over 1.62 lakh and 1.49 lakh tourists visited the Valley in June and July respectively. That was 27 percent higher than figures for the same period in 2018, and sources told the TOI that the July numbers could have been higher had the government not curtailed the Amarnath Yatra ahead of the abrogation of Article 370.

While foreign tourists like one Robertson from Australia told the newspaper that he felt “perfectly safe” during the trip, not having the internet is turning out to be the biggest deterrent, according to the report.

“I have visited Kashmir several times, mainly for skiing. But my friends and I had to cut short our stay this time because it was difficult staying in touch with our families back home without the internet,” Robertson said.

Habibullah Wangnoo, the owner of Wangnoo Sheraton Houseboats, told the newspaper that he had hosted around 250 tourists between August and November, mostly coming in from Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia.

“Not having internet is the main deterrent to foreigners visiting us. I appeal to authorities to restore broadband internet in at least Srinagar city so that tourism can pick up the pieces,” Wangnoo told the newspaper. Domestic tourists, meanwhile, told the newspaper that while they did not have much trouble, not everything was normal in the Valley.

Meanwhile, foggy and cold conditions prevailed across Kashmir for the second consecutive. Vehicles on Srinagar roads could be seen moving with their headlights on even during day time and led to the cancellation of 11-afternoon flights at Srinagar Airport on Friday.

“All flights’ scheduled after 2:45 PM could not operate due to a dense layer of fog, which prevented aircrafts from either landing or taking-off,” Director, Airport’s Authority of India, Srinagar, Santosh Dhoke told Greater Kashmir.

Dhoke said that of 25 flights, only 14 could operate on Friday. “Flight operations were normal in the morning but runway visibility dropped to below 600 meters in the afternoon. This is much lower than the standard visibility required for flight operations. It disrupted air traffic till the end of the day,” said Dhoke.

It may be recalled that more than 60 flights were canceled at Srinagar Airport last month due to poor visibility. Of these, 50 flights were canceled on two consecutive days of 7 and 8 November due to Kashmir receiving heavy snowfall.

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