This summer’s tourist arrivals have been quite impressive. If the arrivals and the booking are any trend, this is going to be the best year in last many decades. The middle class makes most of the arrivals. Off late, residents from state other than the traditional Maharashtra-Gujarat belt are seen arriving in good numbers.
A lot of people among the Indian middle class are preferring Kashmir over many other competing destinations, though the high net worth individuals are still shying away from the coming here. The hospitality industry generates an economy of its own and is beneficial to a large number of people – wealthy as well as poor, skilled as well as unskilled, artisans as well as traders, hoteliers and entrepreneurs.
The tourism economy has immediate benefits for the people associated with it but it continues to be highly fragile activity that cannot be insulated from the happenings around. Barring a mysterious firing incident in the old city, right now everything seems all right. The season is at its peak as hotels and houseboats in Srinagar and other major tourist destinations have almost 100 percent occupancy and some accommodations are booked for months. The arrivals will double by the end of this month when the yearly Amarnath Yatra starts. Given the arrivals and the current status, people associated with the hospitality sector need to understand the tourists must leave with a good impression of the place. A satisfied customer is a customer won forever has held true for centuries. It holds true now.
The tourism industry in Kashmir has not grown at the pace it should have, for obvious reasons. The accommodation is limited and it would require a lot of resources to expand the restrictive infrastructure required for hosting such a large number of tourists.
As the availability and demand chain is disturbed, there is lot of scope for some unscrupulous elements to resort to less than ethical practices like overcharging. Authorities must intervene at proper places to undo these gangs. But there are certain issues that government should start working on. While it should ensure that visitors are not being overcharged, it must, at the same time, implement systems that help the market grow. If the Volvo buses drive directly into Gulmarg bowl and the Nowhatta Chowk in Srinagar, what would the local transporter and the horseman do?
Traffic lights apart, how will the petty road infrastructure manage the massive pressures of the city? Where will the tourists be housed, if the hotels remain with the police and paramilitary forces and year after year the MHA money will encourage the state government to hire hundreds of hotels for its white collar staff? Which systems are in place to manage the fragile ecology better. Srinagar has not seen any addition in the human resource deployed on cleanliness for many years. Who is managing the additional waste that is getting created? Using arrivals to cobble political statement is not bad. But it is to be linked with the responsibilities at the policy making level as well.