According to government sources, over 11 lakh tourists, including 48,000 foreigners, visited Kashmir in 2013, a figure disputed by hoteliers who say the actual number is much less. “Over 11 lakh tourists including foreigners visited Kashmir in 2013. Besides, 3.54 lakh Amarnath pilgrims from different parts of the country also visited the Valley last year,” DGP Ashok Prasad said.
In 2012, a year regarded as the most successful as far as tourism was concerned, a record number of 14 lakh people visited the state.
Most of the foreign tourists came from south-east Asia. State tourism director Talat Parvez said: “If the tourist inflow drops below one million, it is not a good season. However, since over one million tourists visited the region last year, it can be safely said that it was a good season.”
He said the early snowfall this year pointed to a better tourist season ahead. “Snow is bound to attract more tourists to the region and we are hopeful of a good tourist inflow during the winter months”.
Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation president G M Dug, however, said he didn’t agree with the government figures.
“This figure is not correct and is total exaggeration. The government has not evolved any mechanism or process to come up with the correct figures,” he said, adding that the hoteliers would come up with the “correct” figures in April.
Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association president Showkat Chaudhary also said the state didn’t have a good tourist season last year. Showkat, however, said hoteliers were getting inquiries from tourists planning to visit Kashmir later this year.
He said there were some incidents such as militant strikes in Srinagar which sent out signals that “Kashmir was not peaceful”.
J&K Tourism Alliance chairman Faiz Bakshi also disputed the government figures.
“According to our estimates, Kashmir did not witness more than 30 percent tourism than it witnessed in 2012,” he said adding that government figures were not correct.