Tourism picking up in Kashmir, say houseboat, Shikara owners

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Urge govt to formulate ‘comprehensive policy’ to keep industry intact

KNO Correspondent

 The houseboat and Shikara owners say they are witnessing a “positive” change and “favourable economic improvements” in their business during the last few years.

Chairman of Kashmir Houseboat Owners Association (KHBOA), Manzoor Ahmad Pakthoon, while talking to the news agency—Kashmir News Agency (KNO) said that post-Covid-19 pandemic, they are witnessing an upward trend in tourism arrivals in the valley. People’s livelihood opportunities have increased in the sector, he added

Pakhtoon said the last few years have been “positively on the good side” as far as hosting of tourists in houseboats is concerned. However, the stay pattern is not the same as it used to be, he said, adding that the persistence in business has led to an improvement in livelihood.

“The booking pattern is now for a very short phase, but the consistency in the business has made us in a position to generate more employment to offer more and better services to our clients,” he said.

President of Shikara Association, Wali Mohammad, told KNO that the past few years have been better than the previous times.

“There is no denial that the tourism activities have increased in the valley and it has surely had a positive impact on our work due to which our earnings have increased to a certain level,” he said.

Secretary KHBOA, Abdul Rashid, however, said more needs to be done in order to ensure the sustainability of their business. “There is a marginal improvement in livelihood, but it can become good if the visitors stay for a longer time,” he said.

According to the KHBOA, the houseboats have scaled down from thousands to a few hundred only, while many more hundreds are offering to surrender their registrations and seeking “rehabilitation” as they cannot continue with their maintenance due to “inflation”.

According to the Shikara Association, more than 3,000 Shikaras are registered with them which are currently in service at Dal, Nageen, Manasbal, and Hazratbal. However, J&K Tourism Department has mentioned the Shikara numbers as above 4,000.

The tourism stakeholders have demanded sustainability and a comprehensive policy to keep the industry going and to pave the way for generating more employment in the valley

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