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Ladakh reels from tourist downturn due to flash floods

Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 11:15 Hrs  [IST]
By HBI Staff | Mumbai

The deaths of six foreign trekkers in devastating flash floods have dealt a major blow to the crucial tourism industry in high-altitude adventure playground of Ladakh. The fallout from the floods which struck in peak trekking season and killed nearly 190 people has forced mountain guides in the region to relocate to Nepal in their search for clients.

According to a report in AFP, Tsering Dolkar, Deputy Officer, Tourist Reception Centre in Ladakh, “It is been a very bad season. Normally, we have 200 tourists per day arriving by air. Now it is down to around 20 a day.”

In 2009, nearly 80,000 tourists, including 30,000 overseas visitors, travelled to Ladakh, a Buddhist-dominated mountain desert in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir. Tourist officials had hoped to top 1,00,000 arrivals this year, but that target was buried in the mudslides that swept through Leh and surrounding areas when the flash floods hit on August 5, 2010.

Before the disaster, hotel occupancy in Leh had been running at close to 100 per cent. Less than two weeks later it is down below 30 per cent. Since 1974, when Ladakh first opened to tourism, millions of travellers have been drawn to the region. Tourism accounts for 50 per cent of Ladakh’s income, which makes the economic fallout from the flooding especially harsh.

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