M A I N   N E W S

Ladakhis smile as tourists throng cold desert
Jupinderjit Singh/TNS

Leh, July 21
Their blood had run cold at the sight of death and destruction caused by the cloudburst last year. However, less than a year later, both foreign and domestic tourists have shown nerves of steel and made a beeline for the cold desert of Leh. Even the war-ravaged Kargil has witnessed a heavy rush.

Situated amidst bewitching scenic surroundings, the peaceful and mystic sight of lamas and the challenging high altitude life, Leh thrives mainly on tourists.

A few months of good summer season of playing host to tourists is all that they need for comfort all year.

All fears that tourists would not return have been belied. And most surprisingly, it is the domestic tourists, who came in large numbers in May and June, as compared to last year. No wonder, Ladakhis are laughing all the way to the bank.

“The foreigners often come in or after July. Till then, Ladakhis depend on domestic tourists. However, last year Leh witnessed 44,000 tourists till June 30, while this time the number has almost reached 59,000,” said Deputy Commissioner T Angchok.

“The tourist season actually starts in August and September,” the DC said. He added that a little over 5,000 were foreigners. “I am confident that this year we will break all records of tourist inflow,” he said.

Locals believe that cloudburst has made Leh more popular as tourist destination. “True that there were pictures of destruction, but they too projected Ladakh’s beauty,” said Sonam Dorzy, who runs a trekkers’ agency.

Angchok said tourists, especially Indian, came to Leh as there was peace in the valley.

Ghulam Mustafa, who runs a cyber café, said though the Internet and phone connectivity hasn’t improved coupled with frequent power failures, tourists have arrived here in droves.

Nisha, who runs a restaurant here, said: “There is not a minute to rest. We are very happy.”

Anwar Hussain, who runs Nimdumluri Travel Agency in Kargil, said all hotels were full. “There has been at least 40 per cent increase in the number of tourists,” he added.





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