To beat the lean tourist flow, the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department has started the ‘Valley Weekends’ festival, which will continue through the winter season. The festival would provide tourists the local experience and a host of activities on each Saturday and Sunday, director of tourism for Kashmir, Mahmood Shah said. The department organised a play at the famous Mughal Garden-Shalimar and a musical evening in which local bands performed. He said that festival also includes adventure activities such as mountain biking, canoeing and rowing.
“The festival has been organized in autumn as it usually is a lean tourist season in Kashmir and it also aims to send a positive message across the globe that Kashmir is a safe and a tourist-friendly place. The weekend festival will run through the winter season during which we will organize a host of cultural, musical events, besides competitions in poetry and painting,” Shah said. There is an impression that autumn is a lean tourist season in Kashmir and no activity happens here. However, it is the most beautiful season and Kashmir is enchantingly beautiful now,” he said, adding that the department is also gearing up for the carnival this winter at the ski-resorts of Gulmarg and at Pahalgam.”
Kashmir, once synonymous with tourism, is now associated with the lack of it. This sector has been devastated by increasing militancy in the Valley, and modern industry as well as infrastructure development is virtually at a standstill. It is very unfortunate that Kashmir’s tourism has been hit badly for second year in a row amid continued unrest in the Valley. The Valley’s tourist destinations wear a deserted look. Just a handful visits to the Dal Lake, where shikaras mostly remain anchored. This year, only 10 per cent of the expected tourists came to Kashmir. There was a steep decline in tourist flow from July last year when militant commander Burhan Wani’s killing triggered five-month-long street protests. The locals should realize that militancy, repeated strikes, ATM loots, stone pelting incidents, negative videos on social media etc. are the reason for the deep mistrust created between tourists and Kashmir. Recently, six foreign tourists, including two women, who were returning from Kargil in a taxi where held hostage by the Kashmiri locals, who accused them of braid-chopping. Such incidents further mar the image of Kashmir and therefore it comes as no surprise that twenty-five lakh people who are associated with tourism industry in Kashmir are feeling hopeless and helpless at present. What youth in the valley want is peaceful education system, good jobs and even small initiatives like KWFF (Kashmir World Film Festival) or student recognition by J&K Police. What they certainly do not want is unrest in the Valley, stone pelting and the militancy.