India lockdown a major blow for Kashmir tourism

  • Tuesday 27, August 2019 09:31 AM
  • India lockdown a major blow for Kashmir tourism
Sharjah24 – AFP: On Srinagar's Dal Lake, intricately decorated houseboats usually packed with tourists lie empty as Kashmir's tourism sector reels from a three-weeks-long lockdown imposed as India revoked the picturesque region's autonomy.
With its breathtaking scenery, snow-capped mountains and placid lakes, temperate Kashmir is a popular destination for hordes of domestic and international tourists during the scorching summer season in the rest of India.

But authorities in early August called for visitors to leave "immediately" over "terror threats", sparking a mass exodus just days before New Delhi's controversial decision to bring the violence-hit region under its direct rule.

Streets buzzing with locals and tourists are now mostly deserted. In their place are coils of barbed wire, security checkpoints and tens of thousands of extra troops New Delhi sent to the Himalayan region to reinforce the half a million already there.

Authorities cut off all communications -- including the internet and phone lines -- making contact with the outside world very difficult.

In Kashmir, the number of holidaymakers dropped from more than 1.3 million in 2012 to 850,000 in 2018, according to government figures.

But more than half-a-million people visited the valley in the first seven months of this year, with more than 150,000 vacationers arriving last month alone, according to official data.

A few days later, the valley fell silent. Just 150 foreign travellers have visited Kashmir since August 5 when New Delhi scrapped its autonomy, mostly people who booked their trips in advance.