Srinagar: Kashmir for once is in the news for all the right reasons. While the guns in the valley are yet to be fully silenced, the last three months alone have seen half a million tourists visiting the state. For Kashmiris, this is a rare opportunity, especially with hotel, houseboat and airfare charges going up.
As opposed to the five flights-a-day earlier, as many as 30 flights now fly in excited tourists every single day.
A busy tourist season has ensured a huge upswing of economic activity even as after many years, an army of jobless youth are getting absorbed in an industry that is set to touch two million mark.
Industry pundits hope that if peace holds for a few more years, a target of five million is easily achievable.
And hoping to profit on the upswing are new players from both within the state and outside. Twenty three-year-old Saddam Zaroo runs a new hotel in Srinagar and is planning two summer resorts. The MD of Khizer City Forests says, "This place has great potential. Here we can explore water rafting, mountain climbing, skiing, para-gliding. There is so much we can do which is not possible anywhere else. Apart from that there is the yatra which is going to come in some time. We can keep ourselves busy for 365 days and when we are busy, that means a lot of investment would eventually come."
JHM Interstate, which runs 400 hotels across the world, is set to manage a six-star hotel that has been set up by a local business group in Gulmarg. Other leading hotel chains will set up boutique hotels as far as Drass and Kargil in Leh.
Lloyd Lauland, Executive Director of JHM Interstate, says, "We are here to operate Khyber mountain resort in Gulmarg for next several years. We will be launching the resort in November. We will be accepting guests from Dipawali period onward and getting ready for the upcoming ski season."
Ayesha, a young tourist says, "There is so much to enjoy... We went to the gardens and they are so beautiful and boating is nice..."
After many dreary seasons, the mood in the valley right now is upbeat.