Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 31 2017 12:01AM | Updated Date: Dec 31 2017 12:01AM
Although tourist arrivals to Kashmir in 2017 were minimal, as traditional markets such as Gujarat and Maharashtra proved to be a damp squib, however domestic arrivals witnessed good influx at the end of year with emergence of the south Indian market.
Offlate, Kashmir has also turned into an attraction for the tourists from Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand.
Back from a rigorous three-city campaign in South India, Director Tourism Mehmood Shah told Greater Kashmir that more than one crore following on the social media every month has helped the Tourism Department to convince prospective tourists to visit Kashmir. Shah said the next campaign to attract tourists shall be held in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.
“Social media plays a pivotal role. Building this medium in other states has been done much before us. We are late on developing our social media campaign but quite hopeful,” Shah said.
Shah said almost three lakh tourists from Southern India visited Kashmir in 2017 while as this number is expected to increase in the coming year. “Tourists from traditional markets such as Maharashtra and Gujarat were less in number this year due to negativity in media and uncertainty that prevailed here. It was important for us to have a backup plan but I am glad that even Western India tourists have started visiting us once again,” Shah said.
Commenting on scope of prospective tourists from Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai to Kashmir, Shah said “these are industrial and technological hubs where people have a huge purchasing power that needs to be tapped”. Shah said tourists from Hyderabad are keen on “spiritual tourism” such as visiting shrines in Kashmir.
“I was seeing a report that last year 5 lakh tourists from Bengaluru have visited Europe. If we can provide good connectivity to these tourists we can easily have them visit Kashmir over the weekends. South India becomes important for us as tourists from there have a scope of visiting Kashmir throughout the year,” Shah said.
Shah said a familiarization tour of travel agents from South India earlier this year proved to be helpful for the recent road-shows.
“At these recent campaigns the South India-based travel agents sent out a positive message regarding Kashmir and vouched for us. Travel Agents Association of India, president, also provided personal support for our campaigns which makes a lot of difference. We had also tied up with IATA,” Shah said.
Shah said winter season is looking very promising but expressed cautious optimism saying “conducive situation is an important pre-requisite to attract tourists here,” Shah said.
Shah said while luxury and high-end hotels are already witnessing a “healthy occupancy” but budget hotels are also expected to witness improved footfalls in days to come.
“We will also be equally focusing on tier-2 and even tier-3 cities as these tourists visit us between May- October. Occupancy of hotels in Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg has picked up and we hope even budget hotels and houseboats also receives a sizeable number of tourist arrivals in winter, spring and summer season,” Shah said.