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Peace brings tourism to the Valley

Peace brings tourism to the Valley

Author: Noor-Ul-Qamrain
Publication: The Sunday Guardian
Date: October 16, 2011
URL: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/news/peace-brings-tourism-to-the-valley

More than 14 lakh tourists, including Amarnath pilgrims, have visited the Kashmir valley this summer. The state tourist department says that from the number of advance hotel bookings it is clear that another two lakh tourists will visit the valley in autumn. Hotel and houseboat owners attribute this tourist traffic to a summer of peace.

The arrival of autumn in the valley is marked by chinar leaves turning red and meadows turning golden. It is considered to be the best time to visit the valley. Visitors from Gujarat, West Bengal and other parts of the country have already started pouring into the valley to enjoy Kashmir's autumn. Many foreign tourists are also visiting the valley.

Houseboat owners, who have suffered immense losses because of past turmoil, are upbeat about the large tourist inflow this year. Ghulam Nabi Zaindari, a houseboat owner in Srinagar said that they were waiting for winter tourism to pick up as autumn tourism was already at its peak. The office bearer of the Houseboat Owners Association (HBOA), Javaid Ahmad Gasi said that Srinagar had 1,200 odd houseboats. He said that the Association has opened a booking counter at the Srinagar International Airport which has helped houseboat bookings to go up.

"The airport is always a big source of clients because tourists start looking for houseboats as soon as they step out of the aircraft," said Muhammad Azim Tumaan, the newly-elected president of HBOA.

Tumaan also said that the Jammu and Kashmir government had accepted their demand for a dockyard of houseboats in Srinagar. "There has been no dockyard for the last six years and houseboat owners were facing difficulties when trying to get their boats repaired or built. The new dockyard will help both houseboat owners and the tourism industry in the state," he said.

J&K Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora told The Sunday Guardian that besides providing the dockyard, the government had subsidised timber and granted permission for the renewal of houseboat owners' licences. He described the houseboat as a symbol of Kashmir tourism and as a "floating marvel".

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