With hotels and guest houses jam-packed, hundreds of people are making easy money by renting their residential houses to tourists, Nissar Khan reports.
The residential houses around tourist spots especially Dal Lake are renting rooms to tourists as hotels in the valley are witnessing more than 90 per cent occupancy. The heavy tourist rush is providing them an avenue to make some money.
“Almost every house has been rented to the tourists. This is a good business for the locals,” says Ghulam Ahmed, a local shopkeeper at Dalgate.
The practice of renting residential houses to tourists has increased considerably, particularly around Dal Lake, the tourist hub of Srinagar city. Local residents say that there are more than 200 residents are letting their houses on rent to the tourists.
However, the hotel owners say that it has affected their business.
“Surely the competition from unorganized players of tourism has affected our business. There is no scrutiny on part of the government, whether a house is meant for residential purpose or to be rented,” said Mohamad Ismail Degal, Owner of Degal Guest house, Wazir Bagh.
Most of the residential houses, which is let on rent are not registered with the government, say hotel owners. “These houses turned guest houses do not fetch the government any income, as these are not usually registered with the tourism department,” they said.
The tourism department, however, says that they don’t know any such “unregistered houses” where tourists are provided accommodation.
“It depends on the demand. When the inflow of tourists increase, the local houses are rented to them,” says Farooq Ahmed Shah, Director Department of Tourism, J&K.
He further said, “If the local houses are being turned into guest houses, they should seek proper permission from the concerned department and follow appropriate norms”.
Most of the people who rent their homes to tourists belong to the lower middle class. For them it is an easy way of making money.
Saleem Ahmed Beigh (name changed) of Dalgate is one among hundreds who rent their houses to the tourists. He says that it fetches him a sufficient amount of money to support his family for the rest of the year. “I cannot meet the increasing needs of my family if I do not rent my house to the tourists,” he says.
Sheikh Fayaz (name changed) a resident of Dalgate who owns a house with six rooms says that he rents five rooms to tourists and himself lives with his six-member family in the remaining one.
A six-member family squeezed in a single room cannot be a good preposition. “There are not enough hotels around to accommodate all tourists, therefore we rent our places to make some money,” says Fayaz.
Being easily available and economical, many tourists prefer to stay at these places. “A friend recommended a residential house around Dal Lake for our stay. This accommodation is easily available and easy on pocket as well,” said Rakesh Tareen of Jaipur, a tourist staying at a residential house in Dalgate.
It is good to see a large number of tourists visiting the valley. However, the tourists staying in the residential houses would not be counted among the official inflow of tourists because most of these houses are not recognised by the tourism department and are not permitted to rent out accommodation to tourists.