SRINAGAR, OCT 3: As the festival season kicks into high gear, Kashmir is experiencing a significant uptick in tourist arrivals, with a remarkable 40 percent increase in visitor numbers. From Durga Puja to Diwali, the next two months are poised to be pivotal for tourism in the region, drawing backpackers from all corners of the country eager to experience the charm of Kashmir during these festive times.
Renowned travel agent and former president of the Travel Agents of Kashmir, Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo, reported that the surge in demand for tourist packages has been evident over the last few weeks. He anticipates a further 50 percent increase in demand in the coming weeks as the festivals draw closer.
“Currently, we are receiving a significant number of inquiries from tourists across the country. Despite tourism being in somewhat of an off-season, travel agents continue to field calls from eager customers preparing for the holiday season,” Kuthoo stated.
Muhammad Imran, another travel company owner said backpackers from West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Gujarat are among the prospective visitors to Kashmir during the Puja holidays. Typically, the region sees an influx of tourists from West Bengal in October, while Maharashtra and Gujarat residents tend to visit during Diwali. The surge in bookings is expected to continue as the festival dates approach.
Notably, 2023 has proven to be another successful year for tourism in the valley, with a staggering 1.6 crore tourists having visited so far. According to data from the Tourism Department, this figure includes 31,000 foreign tourists. In contrast, last year saw 26.73 lakh tourists visiting Kashmir.
To cater to the needs and preferences of the diverse group of visitors during the festive season, travel agents have made special arrangements. From religious tours to the celebration of festivals following local customs and rituals, tourists are being offered unique experiences that allow them to immerse themselves in the rich culture and traditions of Kashmir.
“We have many historic temples here, and tourists will be taken to these places for Puja. We have crafted packages that enable tourists to fulfil their religious duties during their stay in Kashmir,” said Irshad Ahmad Khan, a travel agent. It’s worth noting that the government is actively promoting religious tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, with over 75 destinations earmarked for the religious tourism circuit. This initiative is expected to further enhance the appeal of the region as a tourist destination, drawing visitors not only for its natural beauty but also for its cultural and religious significance.