Not a day passes when the government and BJP leaders don’t talk about the large number of tourists visiting Kashmir as evidence that people in the Valley have started accepting the new political reality created by the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. For almost six months, all hotels, especially in Gulmarg and Pahalgam, had been closed due to the military siege and communication blockade that accompanied the abrogation. In 2020, after the government lifted restrictions on travel to the Valley despite the Covid lockdown, 41,267 tourists, including 3,897 foreigners, visited Kashmir—the lowest number since 1990. Since December 2020, however, the number of tourists has gone up drastically—19,102 visited in January alone, 26,180 in February and 47,593 in March.
“Our aim is to bring the golden era back to Kashmir,” says Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. “We are exploring new destinations. Efforts are afoot to put in place a better infrastructure for tourists.” In March, the government organised around a dozen shows to promote tourism. Bollywood singers were brought to the Valley and music festivals organised in the famed gardens. “We have been reading and hearing that Kashmir used to be a favourite Bollywood destination in the 1960s, the ’70s, and the ’80s. We will work to bring back the same culture,” says Sinha.