Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tourism Fails to Recover

Customers always take their business elsewhere if their needs are not met

Tourism fails to recover even as normalcy returns

Sana Altaf (Kashmir Times)

Srinagar: Even as normalcy has returned to Valley, the tourism sector is yet to show signs of revival after the agitation over Shopian incident.

The rush of tourists witnessed rapid decline following protests and strikes after the incident. Thousands of tourists who had planned their holidays for Kashmir either cancelled their trip or changed their destination. This reduced the tourist arrival by 80 percent. Fearing trouble, large number of visitors, who were here, rushed back to their destination.

President House Boats Owner Association, Azim Tuman revealed, "The disturbed condition which prevailed here reduced the tourist rush by 80 percent. Even large number of tourists left without completing their visit as they feared for their lives amid heightening tension. Some of them returned to their homes as they had to remain confined to the hotels and house boats, in which they were staying, because of curfew, general strike and protests."

Tuman said thousands of tourists cancelled their trip to Kashmir. "Most of them changed the tourist destinations and rushed to Simla and Kullu Manali for holidays instead of coming to Kashmir."

However, despite improvement in the situation here now, there is no sign of increase in tourist rush No significant fresh arrival of tourist is presently taking place.

"Despite normalcy, we are not receiving fresh tourists in good number presently. People have already got their trips cancelled to Kashmir. Normalcy now cannot make much difference to tourism," said Tuman adding that they do not hope for good tourism again this year.

"May and June is the major tourist season here which is lost due to strikes and shutdowns. People hardly come here after that. However normalcy in coming days can not help us in this season now."

Meanwhile, the Amaranth pilgrimage is scheduled to start from June 15. Lakhs of pilgrims are expected to the Valley. But this too is unlikely to bring much relief to the tourism industry, viewed Tuman.

"Though pilgrims in large number come to Kashmir, it has no major effect on the tourism," Tuman stated.

He stated that as most pilgrims come by road and go straight to the Amaranth Cave. After performing pilgrimage, most of them then go back to their homes without heading for other tourist places in the valley.

Tuman added that most of the pilgrims are being provided with accommodation and food either by the state government or Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). Even some religious groups provide them these facilities.

"Be it food or accommodation, all is provided to them so they do not come to stay in hotels or houseboats," said president of House Boat Owners Association.

Tuman said it is just countable number of pilgrims who come by air on their own expense, and stay in house boats and hotels, and their number is really small.

While large number of tourists are not coming here, the small number of visitors currently here say they are very happy being in Kashmir.

"Kashmir is really a heaven. These protests and strikes cannot take the charm away from this place. Protest takes place every where in the world. It is a part of a societal function,"

said Vikram Suri, a tourist holidaying in Kashmir along with his family for last four days.

Gautam Kumar, a visitor from Mumbai said despite knowing that the situation in Kashmir was deteriorating, he did not change his plan to visit Kashmir.

"I and my family were here during the strike but we did not face any problem. I want to tell people that Kashmir is the best place to visit. There is no danger to life. They should come and relax here," Gautam stated.

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