Kashmir sees tourism boom, but resurgence threatened by targeted killings

In May, the unprecedented heat wave in India, combined with the desire to travel after Covid-19, prompted tourists to look for cooler climate destinations.

Hordes of visitors descended on Kashmir to visit its famous gardens such as the Tulip Garden and the 17th-century Mughal-era Nishad Terraced Garden.

They enjoyed riding schikars (local boats) on the Dal lake and skiing on the slopes of the ski resorts of Gulmarg.

There were about 16,478 passengers at Srinagar Airport on Thursday (June 2), with travel agents noting hotels were booked.

According to Tourism Minister Sarmad Hafiz, among them was the flow of foreign tourists, including from Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

But the return of tourists, so important to reviving the local economy, has coincided with a spate of targeted terrorist killings, highlighting the fragility of the tourism boom.

On Thursday, a bank employee was shot dead in Kulgama district, and a migrant worker was killed in Budgama district, the 15th and 16th targeted killings by terrorists since January this year. Among the victims were both Kashmiri Hindus known as Pandits and Muslims, both civilians and government officials.

“We condemn this violence. We don’t know why this is happening,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Chaiya, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers Club.

“Right now people are coming from all over the country. This is the peak season when schools are closed. We hope that it (tourism) will continue as it is.”

Tourism in Kashmir, which has persisted between periods of instability, contributes 8 per cent of gross domestic product, both directly and indirectly, including through the sale of handicrafts.

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