‘Too late, too little but might revive tourism’

SAQIB MALIK
Srinagar, Publish Date: May 18 2018 12:14AM | Updated Date: May 18 2018 12:14AM
‘Too late, too little but might revive tourism’

Despite terming New Delhi’s recent ceasefire announcement for the ongoing month of Ramadhan as a step “too little, too late”, Valley-based tourism players have said the move can come as a “shot in the arm” for local tour operators who have been witnessing a downturn in business due to low influx of tourists . 

Both tourist arrivals and bookings to Kashmir had taken a hit after 22-year-old Tamil tourist Thirumani died after being hit by a stone thrown by a group of people at Narbal on May 8. 

Soon after the Chennai tourist's death, Tamil Nadu Chief minister K Palaniswami spoke with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and sought her help for the safe return of 130 tourists from Kashmir to the southern state. 

Speaking with Greater Kashmir, various tourism stakeholders said the one-month long ceasefire announced by the Centre will help to alter “negative” perception created among prospective tourists due to the recent death of the Chennai tourist. 

Zahoor Qari, president Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI)’s J&K Chapter, told Greater Kashmir the ceasefire is a welcome step as its announcement would have a “positive psychological impact” on prospective tourists that will prepare them to visit the Valley.

“The announcement is highly appreciable and we hope it is extended beyond the holy month of Ramadhan. Although the death of Chennai tourist was a sad and highly regrettable incident but we are glad that many tourists and outside tour operators passed it off as an isolated incident,” Qari said. 

Qari, who had played an important role in hosting the 64th TAAI Convention in the Valley in March, said Valley-based tour operators have been receiving “sufficient travel queries” at present, which are not getting confirmed as per expectations of travel trade players, he added. 

Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya, president PHD Chamber Kashmir Chapter and chairman of J&K Hoteliers Club welcomed the ceasefire announcement as a “first welcome step” in the right direction.

“We hope that the ceasefire will continue and a meaningful dialogue will be initiated forthwith for resolution of long-pending Kashmir dispute by taking all stakeholders on board,” Chaya said. 

Chaya said he is hopeful that ceasefire will be sustained one and result oriented so that local tourism players can promote Kashmir for the forthcoming seasons.

Nasir Shah, chairman J&K Pilgrimage and Leisure Tour Operators Forum said the tourism sector in the Valley has received a major setback due to the death of the Chennai tourist and the uncertain situation but added that ceasefire will help to “undo some damage”. 

Shah said escalation of the bloodshed and mayhem in the last few months has done “irreparable damage” to tourism sector which would need only “a political masterstroke” for its complete revival.

“The ceasefire although is a step too little and too late but nonetheless a good opportunity to revive back tourism to some extent. An almost irreparable damage has been done to our tourism due to some untoward incidents and the negative portrayal of Kashmir,” Shah said.

Farooq Kuthoo, secretary general Travel Agents Association of Kashmir said a temporary halt to anti-militancy operations by the government can also bring an end to frequent civilian killings which will be helpful for overall growth and development of the Valley.

“Just one month of ceasefire is not enough though. We hope the security forces to exercise maximum restraint so that there is an end to mayhem we have been witnessing,” Kuthoo said.

Kashmir witnessed brisk tourist arrivals in March and April starting as the Tulip Garden located in the summer capital recorded over 1.83 lakh visitors including tourists from across the world in one month. The tourist influx which had picked up took a nosedive after incidents of stone pelting on tourists were reported by sections the national media. 

Several back to back encounters, restrictions and shutdowns had also put the tourism sector in dire straits. The much-hyped promotional campaign of Kashmir’s tourism department projecting Kashmir as the “warmest place on earth” has not had many takers as the situation in the Valley has been fragile ever since Hizb commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter on 8 July 2016 which had led to civil unrest in the Valley for several months.

 

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